By and large, coach Anthony Foley has stuck with the tried and trusted players who have helped guide Munster to the cusp of semi-final qualification – they need just a losing bonus point to advance alongside Cornish Pirates, Doncaster and either London Welsh or Ulster, who must beat Aberavon at home in Ravenhill tonight (7.30) in order to move into the last four.
Yet he hasn’t held back from some experimentation either and has named sub-academy player Mike Kelleher (Richmond) in the centre alongside regular Scott Deasy.
“Mike played for us in a friendly earlier in the season against Heriots and we felt it was opportune to give him another run against the same team in different circumstances; it’s a good chance for the lad who has done well at the different levels over the last couple of seasons,” said Foley, who confirmed there would be four changes from the team that started the last game against Neath.
Kelleher comes in for the injured Tom Gleeson, Billy Holland is back for Shane Hassett and two players who pulled out on the eve of the Neath match through illness have been brought back. Mike Sherry returns for Sean Henry and Dave Foley returns in place of Ed Kelly; both replaced players are named on the bench.
Although a single point will suffice to overtake Bristol and drive Munster into the knock out stages, Foley has no intention of setting goals lower than the demand to win. “We understand the consequence of not winning the game and what would be required were that to happen, but we’re going out to win as we have done on each occasion this season; the possibility of losing just isn’t in our thought process.
“We’re going out to play the type of positive rugby that has brought us four wins out of four in the competition so far and I have no doubt that the players won’t lose sight of what they want to achieve. Participation in this tournament has been very worthwhile; players have been subjected to different situations that they might not normally have to face.
“They have had to lift themselves to play competitive rugby which is obviously a very different challenge from giving them a run in friendly games.”
MUNSTER XV (v Heriots, B&I Cup, Musgrave Park, tonight, 7.30)
D Riordan (UL Bohs), D Barnes (Dolphin), M Kelleher (Richmond), S Deasy (Cork Con), C O’Boyle (Garryowen), D Cusack (Thomond), D Williams (Cork Con); D Kilcoyne (UL Bohs), M Sherry (Garryowen), S Archer (Cork Con), D Foley (UL Bohs), I Nagle (Cork Con), B Holland (Cork Con), P O’Mahony (Cork Con) capt., N Williams (Dolphin).
Replacements: S Henry (UL Bohs), P O’Regan (UL Bohs), N Melbourne (Clonmel), E Kelly (UL Bohs), C Murray (Garryowen), J Manning (Cork Con), S Scanlon (UCC).