Malone hopes to oversee another triumph to maintain their position at the top of Pool 2 when the province host Rotherham Titans for the second week in succession in Ennis tomorrow (2pm). The 35-24 bonus point victory last week coupled with the withdrawal of financially crippled London Welsh means Munster are in charge of their own destiny with three games to go.
Malone admitted: “Everyone enjoys playing in different parts of the province. I suppose it’s otherwise rare for our players to get to move around but we’ve played in places like Bandon, Waterford, Midleton, Clonmel and now we’re here in Ennis for the first time. It’s good for the clubs and it’s good for the players as well to get out. It’s giving back something to the grassroots; it’s really nice to be playing in front of what is essentially going to be a local crowd.”
Apart from the result last week, Malone reflected happily on Munster’s ability to ride a storm when reduced to 13 men late in the game. “That, I suppose, was the most pleasing aspect of the victory, the fact that we didn’t concede when our backs were to the wall.”
Ennis vice-President Richard Murphy predicts a crowd of 1000 for the tie. “That number would bring a nice atmosphere to the event, anything more would be a bonus. It’s a big occasion for the club which is thriving. We have a very big under-age section, up to 400 kids and both our under 16 and 18 teams have already won their way through to north-Munster finals.
“For a club fighting for greater recognition in a county noted more for GAA than rugby, it is a huge boost to have Munster come and play here and it’s an opportunity for the supporters to get up close to these top players.”
Malone makes five changes from last week. Peter McCabe comes into the front row and Evan Mintern and Gavin Coombes are named in the back row while Steve Crosbie (out half) and Dan Goggin (centre) also get starts. Included in the replacements are Kevin O’Byrne and Dave O’Callaghan who are returning from respective elbow and shoulder injuries.
D Johnston; C Nash, D Goggin, S Arnold, G O’Shea; S Crosbie, Te Aihe Toma; P McCabe, V O’Brien, B Scott; D Foley (captain), D O’Shea; E Mintern, G Coombes, R Copeland.
K O’Byrne, R Burke, J Madigan, D O’Callaghan, J Poland, C Bohane, S McMcahon.