Connacht Rugby return to action on Saturday evening for the much-anticipated visit of Munster to the Galway Sportsground (7.45pm ). Fresh from a three-week break for the Six Nations, both sides will be looking for a win - Munster to consolidate their top four position and Connacht to grab a rare victory over their illustrious provincial rivals in a bid to improve their league standing.
The odds, as always, are firmly with Munster. Although Munster will not have last weekend’s internationals at their disposal, coach Tony McGahan has the luxury of selecting a 28 man squad that boasts David Wallace, James Coughlan, Damien Varley, Ian Keatley, Denis Hurley, Johnny Murphy, Felix Jones, Mick O’Driscoll, Tomas O’Leary, Lifeimi Mafi, and BJ Botha.
Eric Elwood has nine on the injured list, the latest being Player of the Month and No 8 George Naoupu who broke his hand in training. Outhalf Niall O’Connor remains sidelined with a hairline fracture suffered in Connacht’s win over Edinburgh, while also out of action are Dave Gannon, Andrew Browne, Johnny O’Connor, Dave Nolan, TJ Anderson, Mark McCrea and Brian Tuohy.
On the plus side, he welcomes back Irish squad member Mike McCarthy, who will rejoin Mike Swift in the second row, while Brett Wilkinson, unavailable against the Scarlets, will be back in the front row alongside Adrian Flavin and Ronan Loughney. However injury has robbed the backrow of the influential Naoupu, and it is likely Elwood will move John Muldoon to the No 8 slot with Mick Kearney a likely replacement on the blindside flank. Ray Ofisa, who has been a doubt all week, is expected to return to the openside if fully fit.
In the backs Miah Nikora can expect to continue at outhalf, alongside Frank Murphy, while Henry Fa’afili is a strong candidate to continue in the centre, alongside Eoin Griffin or Kyle Tonetti, with Gavin Duffy, Fetu Vainikolo and Tiernan O’Halloran expected to complete the three-quarters line. Connacht’s record against Munster is poor - one win in 36 when they recorded a memorable 12 - 6 victory in Galway in 2008. However Munster also arrive on the back of a poor performance against Aironi and will have targeted this match to return to winning ways.