O’Gara warns Reds as McGahan rings changes

RONAN O’GARA has warned his Munster team-mates to expect another series of tough challenges tonight against Connacht as the province tries to rebound from the trauma of last weekend’s European defeat to Harlequins.

Munster play their final regular season game this evening looking to get their campaign back on track ahead of a home semi-final next weekend after a bafflingly poor performance at the same ground last Saturday in losing the Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final.

O’Gara is one of just four players to keep his place in the Munster starting 15 from that game with fellow veteran Alan Quinlan and scrum-half Tomás O’Leary among the players called into service.

“All you can do is take the next opportunity to put matters right, and that opportunity comes on Friday,” O’Gara said.

“And it’ll be a good opportunity because Connacht games are always tough and they’ll come down here to win and believe they can. This one will be just as hard as last week. There’ll be questions asked, no doubt about that.”

Munster head coach Tony McGahan’s first order of business following the Harlequins defeat has been to fix his team’s problems that were exposed once again at the set-piece.

“These problems have been identified for a little while,” McGahan said.

“Some days we’ve had excellent days. The Leinster game three weeks ago, we were 100% on the scrum, lineout and restart ball, which is a good stat. We’ve seen what they can produce over the last few weeks. We have the ability to play but the consistency of being able to deliver in a big game. We’ve fallen short in the semi-final period over the last three years.”

Denis Leamy is the only member of the Munster pack to be retained from last week’s semi but moves to number eight with Quinlan returning at six and Niall Ronan at seven.

O’Leary returns to the Munster side for the first time since January following back and eye problems with full-back Felix Jones and wing Doug Howlett the others to keep their places.

Connacht will be aiming to halt Munster’s seven-match winning streak in the Magners League and become the first visiting side to beat their neighbours at home in the competition this season.

Eric Elwood’s team lost out to Ulster at Ravenhill two weeks ago and have won only once on the road in the League this season.

O’Connell scare for Munster

PAUL O’CONNELL gave Munster a fresh injury scare this week, but is fit and ready to go ahead of tonight’s clash with Connacht.

The second row went over on an ankle on Tuesday in training, prompting fears of further injury woe for the skipper. But it’s understood not to be a recurrence of the ligament injury which sidelined him for over a month.

MUNSTER: F Jones; D Howlett, J Murphy, D Barnes, S Zebo; R O’Gara, T O’Leary; M Horan, M Sherry, J Hayes; D Ryan, P O’Connell (c); A Quinlan, N Ronan, D Leamy.

Replacements: D Varley, W du Preez, S Archer, I Nagle, T O’Donnell, P Stringer, P Warwick, D Hurley.

CONNACHT: G Duffy; B Tuohy, E Griffin, M Nikora, F Carr; I Keatley, F Murphy; B Wilkinson, S Cronin, J Hagan; M McCarthy, B Upton; A Browne, J O’Connor (c), J Muldoon.

Replacements: A Flavin, R Loughney, D Rogers, D Nolan, M McComish, C Willis, T Nathan, T O’Halloran.

Referee: Dudley Phillips (IRFU).

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