Foley beefs up A side as Munster bid to shoot down Ravens

HAVING defeated Ulster twice this season in the A Interprovincial Championship, Munster will be fancied to complete the hat-trick as they take on the Ravens in the semi-final of the inaugural British & Irish Cup at Thomond Park this afternoon.

The game kicks off at 3.30pm in what should be an entertaining double header with the Munster-Ospreys Magners League clash set for a 6.30pm kick-off.

Munster coach Anthony Foley has finalised a side that includes six of those who performed so impressively for Munster in last Sunday’s Magners League win over Connacht. Forwards Dave Ryan, Dave Foley and skipper Peter O’Mahoney and backs Declan Cusack, Jeremy Manning and Danny Barnes will have benefited from that experience while Foley has opted for the experienced Mossy Lawler at full-back. Lawler, the current captain of Shannon, played 69 times for the full Munster side and was one of the try scorers in the “Miracle Match” victory over Gloucester in 2004.

The Ravens got the B&I Cup off to a promising start with excellent wins against English sides Bedford Blues and Moseley before drawing with Llanelli at Parc y Scarlets. That result set up a showdown against London Welsh at Ravenhill where the Ravens emerged victorious, 21-17. This propelled them top and they went on to thrash Aberavon 62-0 in their final group game at Ravenhill.

The Ravens are the top scorers in the competition with 165 points, an average of 33 per game, illustrating the attacking flair which this young side has displayed so far. Tommy Seymour has been the top scorer with four tries in five appearances.

Thomond out-half Declan Cusack has been a key man for Munster, scoring 39 points in the competition so far. He kicked six penalties in the 18-3 win over Nottingham and in their final game against Heriots at Musgrave Park the side scored five tries in what was their most convincing result of their group games.

Ravens Coach Neil Doak said: “Munster have a big squad that they can rotate and it is always hard travelling to Thomond Park. But with the Magners League game to follow, there should be a great atmosphere and this is the younger players’ chance to shine on a big stage. If we perform and do the basics well, we have a good chance.”

English sides Doncaster meet Cornish Pirates in the other semi-final tomorrow with an Anglo Irish decider guaranteed.

MUNSTER A: M. Lawler (Shannon); R. O’Mahony (Garryowen), D. Barnes (Dolphin), J. Manning (Cork Con), S. Scanlon (UCC); D. Cusack (Thomond), D. Williams (Cork Con); D. Ryan (Dolphin), M. Sherry (Garryowen), S. Archer (Cork Con); D. Foley (UL Bohs), I. Nagle (Cork Con); T. O’Donnell (UL Bohs), E. Grace (Shannon), P. O’Mahoney (Cork Con) capt.

Replacements: D. Kilcoyne (UL Bohs), S. Henry (UL Bohs), D. O’Callaghan (UCC), P. Butler (Shannon), C. Murray (Garryowen), M. Kelliher (Richmond), L. O’Dea (Shannon).

ULSTER RAVENS: D. McIlwhaine (Queens Univ); C. Cochran (Dungannon), M. Allen (Belfast Harlequins), J. Shiels (Queens), T. Seymour (Ballymena); J. McKinney (Queens), I. Porter (Queens); P. McAllister (Ballynahinch), N. Brady (Dungannon) capt, D. Fitzpatrick (Dungannon), A. Linton (Queens), N. Macomb (Belfast Harlequins), A. Birch (Dungannon), S. Dougall (Malone), S. Lavella (Trinity College).

Replacements: N. Annett (Belfast Harlequins), P. Karayiannis (Queens), N. Magee (Dungannon), S. McKenzie (Dungannon), M. Pyper (Queens), L. Marshall (Ballymena), C. Gilroy (Dungannon).

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