Bristish and Irish Cup holders Munster face a major test of character when they take on Rotherham Titans at Clifton Lane this afternoon (2pm) with an experimental side.
Both sides are undefeated after two matches, but the South Yorkshire team lead Munster at the top of pool 7 by a bonus point.
With a format identical to the Heineken Cup, this is the first of two back-to-back fixtures, and, in Munster’s case, is of crucial importance. They will want to win of course to remain in control of their own destiny but a losing bonus point would put them four points behind with a return fixture in Cork.
Munster coach Ian Costello is aware of the difficulties and pointed to the fact Rotherham secured a facile win over Plymouth while Munster struggled to beat them.
Costello can call on Denis Hurley, Johne Murphy, Luke O’Dea, Danny Barnes, Scott Deasy, Christy Condon, Dave Foley and Ian Nagle while Ryan Murphy, Jack O’Donoghue, James Cronin and Brian Slater will be making first appearances.
Although he still has had limited exposure, JJ Hanrahan should settle into the pivotal out-half role but there is a less tried youthful look about the back row and in particular Ryan Murphy and Shane Buckley.
“There are quite a few back row injuries so we’re lacking a bit of experience there but on the plus side we have some very exciting young players from our Academy,” said Costello.
Meanwhile, Leinster head pool five but having a game and only points difference seperates them from Jersey who they meet today.
Dominic Ryan has given the management a fitness boost after missing the last three months through injury. He has been named in the back-row and is joined by Leo Auva’a and Rhys Ruddock, who leads the team.
LEINSTER A: C Marsh, A Boyle, B Macken, J Coghlan, A Byrne, N Reid, J Cooney, J O’Connell, A Dundon, J Hagan, B Marshall, T Denton, R Ruddock (captain), L Auva’a, D Ryan.
Replacements: T Sexton, M Moore, T Beirne, C Gilsenan, L McGrath, T Daly, S Crosbie.
MUNSTER A: D Hurley, L O’Dea, D Barnes, I Dineen, J Murphy, JJ Hanrahan, C Sheridan, J Cronin, S Henry, J Ryan, D Foley, I Nagle, B Hayes, R Murphy, S Buckley.
Replacements: D Casey, C Condon, P Donnellan, J O’Donoghue, B Slater, S Deasy, R O’Mahony.
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