Friday 15 December 2017

These are no Western Lams to a Southern slaughter

There just might be reasonable grounds for a shock in Limerick, where Connacht will have to be at their best against Munster tonight (KO5.15, Live Sky Sports 1).

This is reflected in the statistic that they have not won in Munster since the pre-professional, almost pre-historic days of 1986.

The single fact that seems to be lost in Connacht's charge for qualification to The Champions Cup is that seventh will be good enough for a play-off spot.

There is a Plan B. This is compromised by the close proximity of not only The Scarlets, three points back in seventh, but Edinburgh four off in eighth.

Their biggest handicap has been the loss of Bundee Aki to their three-quarters for the punch the centre adds.

Without Irish-tied Robbie Henshaw, coach Pat Lam goes with the under-rated second five-eighth skills of Craig Ronaldson and the limited distribution of Danie Poolman there.

There is reason to believe Connacht can confound history by exerting pressure through their pack where Denis Buckley can test Stephen Archer in the scrum.

"We are fully aware that Munster at Thomond Park is a big challenge but we also have the self-belief that if we focus on our game plan and work as a team, we can go down there and perform," said Lam.

The greatest threat from Munster comes around the outside, where Keith Earls and Simon Zebo could slice and dice Connacht.

Munster: F Jones; K Earls, A Smith, D Hurley (capt), S Zebo; I Keatley, D Williams; J Ryan, E Guinazu, S Archer, D O'Callaghan, B Holland, D O'Callaghan, T O'Donnell, CJ Stander.

Connacht: T O'Halloran; D Leader, D Poolman, C Ronaldson, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, T McCartney, R Ah you, M Kearney, A Muldowney, J Muldoon (capt), E Masterson, G Naoupu.

Verdict: Connacht

munster v connacht

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