Emotional moment for departing stars

MUNSTER coach Declan Kidney will name his team to play their final Celtic League game of the season against the Cardiff Blues at lunchtime today, but may have to do without two international greats.

Tomorrow’s game will mark the final involvement of several Munster stalwarts — the most prominent of whom will be Rob Henderson and Mike Mullins — both of whom are moving on at the end of the season.

Henderson has actually been named in the Munster panel to play Cardiff (ko 5.30 pm), but it remains to be seen if he will be selected for what would be a final appearance for him at Thomond Park.

Munster PRO, Pat Geraghty said last night that it was proposed to have some form of presentation to both men at half-time in the game, but the plans had not yet been finalised.

A 13,000 sell-out is anticipated for the Cardiff game as fans come to pay homage to the new champions of Europe, but it will be an emotional moment for several players — not least Mullins and Henderson — who will wear the red Munster jersey for the last time.

Also bowing out from Munster will be Paul Burke, who is moving to Leicester, Trevor Hogan and Stephen Keogh, who are moving to Leinster and Mike Prendergast, who is retiring.

Plans are also being formulated for a parade of the Heineken Cup around Thomond at the end of the game, but these have not yet been finalised.

In the meantime, David Young, Cardiff Blues’ Director of Coaching has named a side that shows five changes to the team that defeated Leinster two weeks ago.

Rhys Williams has recovered from a hamstring injury to take his place on the wing and young Pontypridd outside half and Konica Minolta Cup hero David Flanagan makes his first start for the Blues.

There are also three changes in the pack with Mark Lewis, Ben Evans and Duane Goodfield all starting. Munster, the newly crowned European champions have sold out Thomond Park for the match (13,200 capacity) with both teams aiming to finish in the third spot.

In the meantime, with a Heineken Cup place up for grabs, the Glasgow Warriors travel the Galway Sportsground today with a great deal more incentive than hosts, Connacht (6.30pm).

Though both sides sit in the league’s basement area, the Warriors still have much to play for. Two points behind the Border Reivers, Glasgow need to take victory over Connacht this evening and hope the Borders lose to the Ospreys to ensure they claim the second Scottish Heineken Cup place.

After 21 rounds, Connacht have little more to play for than pride, but coach Michael Bradley is insisting his side needs to conclude the season with a win.

“Glasgow do have a big motivation, but we are playing at home and we need a good finish to the season. If we were to win six of our last eight then that would be great,” he says.

There are no surprises in the Connacht line-up. Conor McPhillips returns to the wing with Matt Mostyn reverting to his customary fullback position, while Mark McHugh continues his halfback partnership with Chris Keane.

And with no injuries up front, the forwards, too, are a strong line-up with Andrew Farley once again captaining side from the second row.

Warriors head coach Sean Lineen has made six changes to the starting line-up from the team that defeated Llanelli Scarlets at Firhill a fortnight ago. Graeme Morrison, Sam Pinder, Graydon Staniforth and Stuart Corsar all come into the starting line-up in place of Andy Henderson, Dan Parks, Colin Shaw and Ben Prescott while Colin Gregor moves from scrum half to stand off and Kevin Tkachuk swaps from loose-head to tight-head prop.

CARDIFF BLUES: N Macleod, R Williams (c), J Robinson, M Stcherbina, C Czekaj, D Flanagan, M Phillips, M Lewis, R Sowden-Taylor, M Molitika, R Sidoli, D Jones, B Evans, D Goodfield, J Yapp. Replacements: R Gill, R Thomas, B Davies, M Williams, R Powell, T Riley, C Morgan.

CONNACHT: M Mostyn, C McPhillips, J Hearty, G Williams, D Yapp, M McHugh, C Keane, R Hogan, J Fogarty, S Knoop, D Gannon, A Farley, J Muldoon, M Lacey, C Rigney. Replacements: J Merrigan, A Clarke, D McGowan, M Swift, T Tierney, D Slemen, T Robinson.

GLASGOW WARRIORS: G Staniforth, S Davey H O’Hare, G Morrison, R Lamont, C Gregor, S Pinder; S Corsar, F Thomson, K Tkachuk, J Eddie, D Turner, J Petrie, J Beattie, D Macfadyen. Replacements: E Milligan, S Lawson, C Hamilton, J Barclay, A Wilson, D Parks, I Kennedy

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