Saturday 16 December 2017

Conway to debut for Munster

FORMER Leinster wing Andrew Conway will make his Munster debut against Gloucester in the first of two pre-season matches, the second coming against London Irish in Cork next Friday night.

Like Mark Anscombe, coach Rob Penney is into his second year and is already loaded with the knowledge from last season along with his eye on pre-season.

The contest between Ian Keatley and JJ Hanrahan for the right to succeed Ronan O'Gara on a permanent basis this season will be a hot one.

While Keatley has been patient through his career at Connacht for three seasons and into his third at Munster, the time has come for the 26-year-old to move up or move out.

The burden of pressure will shift onto his shoulders with 2012 U20 World Player of the Year nominee Hanrahan pressing for inclusion at 10 or even 12.

The most interesting aspect of this game will be whether Munster will revert to their natural pragmatic style or that of Penney's Canterbury background.

Verdict: Munster

Munster: D Hurley; A Conway, C Laulala, I Dineen, J Murphy; I Keatley, D Williams; J Cronin, M Sherry, J Ryan, D O'Callaghan, B Holland, CJ Stander, N Ronan, J Coughlan.



NEWCASTLE FALCONS v CONNACHT, Kingston Park, Tomorrow (KO 3.0)

Coach Pat Lam has got an early jump on his provincial rivals by squeezing three matches into his first few months in charge.

He started out with a very encouraging 42-31 defeat by French champions Castres in France and a rather less edifying 31-7 experience at home to London Wasps last Saturday.

This will surely be the time to put his early impressions into sharper focus with a selection that will closely resemble that which will start the PRO12 League next week.

The early arrival of the Waikato Chiefs ex-captain Craig Clarke has come as a boost in leadership in what could be the latest import of a future Ireland international.

While Clarke, 33, was outside the interest of the All Blacks coaching staff, he does bring an aura of decency and an intellectual knowledge of the game that is undeniable.

Verdict: Newcastle

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