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Dublin: 19 °C Saturday 8 August, 2020
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Red-hot Munster take aim at Pro14 pacesetters Glasgow at fortress Thomond

Johann van Graan’s side have already scored 187 points at home this season, and will be looking to continue that strong form this evening.

ATTENTION REVERTS BACK to Pro14 matters for Johann van Graan’s Munster, but any suggestion this fixture has been a secondary thought following the intensity of Europe — and what is to come next month — is quickly dissolved by the sight of the Glasgow Warriors pitching up to Thomond Park.

Not only is this evening’s meeting a clash of two Conference rivals, but Dave Rennie’s visitors have set the pace again this season, winning five out of their six outings to streak out in front at the summit of Conference A.

Munster's Sammy Arnold Sammy Arnold starts for Munster this evening. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

With 10 points already the buffer between fourth-place Munster and Glasgow, the southern province can ill-afford to lose any further ground on the Scottish side, making this round seven showdown [KO 5.15pm, eir Sport/Premier Sport] of significant importance. 

Van Graan’s side are coming in off the back of a positive fortnight in Europe, drawing their Heineken Champions Cup opener against Exeter Chiefs and then claiming a bonus-point in victory over Gloucester seven days ago without ever really getting out of second gear.

In addition, their home form this term has been excellent with Munster scoring 187 points in their four outings in Limerick and Cork hitherto, while it is four-and-a-half years since Glasgow last tasted victory at the province’s Thomond Park citadel. 

Indeed, the last four fixtures between these two sides — including Munster’s humbling at Scotstoun in September — have gone the way of the home side, and the fact van Graan has been able to name 10 internationals in his side further bolsters the hosts’ hand.

The Munster head coach makes seven changes to his starting XV from last week, with Joey Carbery rested, but the inclusion of nine of the 11 Ireland players included in Joe Schmidt’s November squad this week is a serious statement of intent.

On the presumption Schmidt will excuse his front-line internationals from travelling to Chicago next week, the likes of Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander and Keith Earls all start against the Warriors, with JJ Hanrahan deputising for Carbery at out-half.

Having featured in all of Munster’s eight games so far, the 22-year-old is given the weekend off with a view to starting against Italy in Soldier Field next Saturday, while Darren Sweetnam, Rhys Marshall, Tadhg Beirne, Duncan Williams and the injured duo of Tommy O’Donnell and Dan Goggin are the others to drop out.

Earls, fresh from signing a contract extension, Alby Mathewson and Niall Scannell return to the side having shaken off respective knocks, while Sammy Arnold starts in midfield alongside Rory Scannell having received his first international call-up on Wednesday. 

The 22-year-old has been in or around Ireland camps over the last 12 months but his excellent early-season form earned him a place in Schmidt’s enlarged panel for the four-game November window. 

“It’s been a strange few weeks obviously starting in the game against Leinster was awesome and then on the bench against the Chiefs and then staying overnight in hospital was a bit weird,” Arnold said. 

“Then coming back this week and getting the win and getting the five points and having seven from a possible ten in Europe. It’s been an unusual few weeks both personally and as a team, I am happy with where I am and we are. 

Peter O'Mahony Peter O'Mahony captains Munster. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“We were told what games we were going to be involved in (at the start of the season) and we knew the plan going forward. I was lucky enough to start the Leinster inter-pro with Dan and obviously on the bench for the Chiefs game and this weekend.

“Johann is pretty good and pretty honest. There has been a rotation between the three of us because of injuries and you amass lots of minutes and you look now, you’ve rotated and already we are down to two centres so what would have happened if we didn’t.

“It’s one of them things. Obviously as a player sometimes you want to play as much as you can but you trust the coaches know what they are doing and there’s no better guys.”

While Munster have been ominous in front of their home fans, the Warriors will arrive full of confidence, too, having downed Cardiff Blues in the Champions Cup last weekend and will present van Graan’s side with a huge challenge. 

They include five of the 16 players in Scotland’s squad for the forthcoming internationals, as brothers George and Pete Horne partner each other at scrum and out-half respectively.

Glasgow possess huge power up front, with Rob Harley and Matt Fagerson both returning to the pack, but it was their lethal running game which exposed Munster in the round two meeting earlier in the season.

“It was a tough day,” Arnold recalls. “A shocking first 40 minutes from us, we got it together in the second half but it’s always a massive game between us and Glasgow.

“There’s a bit of a rivalry there as well, two competitive teams. They’re on the top of the Conference and the kind of calibre of players they have all the recent encounters have been very close, very tight physical games and this week will be the same.

“Look at how many Scottish internationals they have in their team so we’d have a lot of respect for them as a team and they’re a very good team but we’re looking forward to getting them at home this week.”

And that should make all the difference.  

Munster:

15. Mike Haley
14. Andrew Conway
13. Sammy Arnold
12. Rory Scannell
11. Keith Earls
10. JJ Hanrahan
9. Alby Mathewson

1. James Cronin
2. Niall Scannell
3. John Ryan
4. Jean Kleyn
5. Billy Holland
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Chris Colete
8. CJ Stander

Replacements:

16. Kevin O’Byrne
17. Dave Kilcoyne
18. Stephen Archer
19. Fineen Wycherley
20. Arno Botha
21. Neil Cronin
22. Ian Keatley
23. Darren Sweetnam

Glasgow Warriors:

15. Ruaridh Jackson
14. DTH van der Merwe
13. Nick Grigg
12. Sam Johnson
11. Rory Hughes
10. Pete Horne
9. George Horne

1. Oli Kebble
2. Grant Stewart
3. D’Arcy Rae
4. Rob Harley
5. Scott Cummings
6. Adam Ashe
7. Callum Gibbins
8. Matt Fagerson

Replacements:

16. Kevin Bryce
17. Jamie Bhatti
18. Petrus du Plessis
19. Greg Peterson
20. Chris Fusaro
21. Nick Frisby
22. Brandon Thomson
23. Niko Matawalu.

Referee: Dan Jones [WRU].

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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