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JVG names strong team for Connacht inter-pro as Munster chase Pro14 top spot

Connacht, meanwhile, hand a first start to academy out-half Conor Dean at Thomond Park.

MUNSTER HEAD COACH Johann van Graan has named a strong team for Saturday’s Guinness Pro14 inter-pro against Connacht at Thomond Park [KO 7.35pm, eir Sport/Premier Sports], as the province chase top spot in Conference A.

Van Graan has made four changes in personnel from last week’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final defeat to Saracens for the final round of Pro14 action, with Dan Goggin, Calvin Nash, Stephen Archer and Chris Cloete all drafted into the starting XV.

Conor Murray Conor Murray starts for Munster. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

As expected, Joey Carbery and Keith Earls are not risked by Munster, while Darren Sweetnam, Rory Scannell, John Ryan and Jack O’Donoghue are the players to drop out from the European loss in Coventry. 

Both Munster and Connacht have assured themselves of a place in the end-of-season play-offs, but the home side are pushing hard to top Conference A and earn an automatic passage through to a home semi-final.

Trailing Glasgow Warriors by three points heading into the final round, Munster need Edinburgh to do them a huge favour at Scotstoun, while beating Connacht themselves to snatch top spot off Dave Rennie’s side. 

As such, van Graan has retained many of his frontline internationals with Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Conor Murray, Niall Scannell, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander all named to start against Andy Friend’s side.

Mike Haley continues at fullback with Conway and Nash completing the back three, while Farrell pairs up with Goggin, who was named Munster’s young player of the year this week, in midfield.

With Carbery still sidelined through injury, Tyler Bleyendaal is again handed the out-half reins, while Archer and Cloete come in as the only changes to the Munster pack for the round 21 encounter. 

Connacht, meanwhile, have handed a first senior start to academy out-half Conor Dean as Friend wraps Jack Carty in cotton wool ahead of their quarter-final tie against Ulster next weekend.

Conor Dean Connacht's Conor Dean is set for his senior debut. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

With a place in next season’s Champions Cup and the Pro14 knockout stages already assured, this is something of a free hit for Connacht and Friend has included a mixture of youth and experience for his side’s trip to Limerick.

Having had last weekend off, the likes of Tiernan O’Halloran, Bundee Aki, Kieran Marmion and captain Jarrad Butler all start for the western province, while Finlay Bealham makes a remarkable return from the horrific hand injury he suffered last week.

Tom Daly and Stephen Fitzgerald, both of whom signed contracts with Connacht for next season, are handed starting opportunities, with 21-year-old Dean set to become the seventh academy player to make his debut this term.

Tighthead Bealham takes his place alongside hooker Tom McCartney and Matthew Burke at loosehead, with James Cannon starting alongside Joe Maksymiw in the second row. Butler, Eoin McKeon and former Munster man Robin Copeland make up the back row. 

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15. Mike Haley
14. Andrew Conway
13. Chris Farrell
12. Dan Goggin
11. Calvin Nash
10. Tyler Bleyendaal
9. Conor Murray

1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Niall Scannell
3. Stephen Archer
4. Jean Kleyn
5. Tadhg Beirne
6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
7. Chris Cloete
8. CJ Stander. 


16. Rhys Marshall
17. Jeremy Loughman
18. John Ryan
19. Billy Holland
20. Arno Botha
21. Neil Cronin
22. JJ Hanrahan
23. Sammy Arnold.


15. Tiernan O’Halloran
14. Niyi Adeolokun
13. Bundee Aki
12. Tom Daly
11. Stephen Fitzgerald
10. Conor Dean
9. Kieran Marmion

1. Matthew Burke
2. Tom McCartney
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Joe Maksymiw
5. James Cannon
6. Eoin McKeon
7. Jarrad Butler (captain)
8. Robin Copeland. 


16. Shane Delahunt
17. Peter McCabe
18. Conor Carey
19. Eoghan Masterson
20. Paul Boyle
21. Caolin Blade
22. Eoin Griffin
23. Darragh Leader.

Gavan Casey and Murray Kinsella are joined by Andy Dunne to get stuck into last weekend’s Champions Cup semi-finals.:

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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