The xmas interpros for Connacht starts with a home visit from our Southern rivals Munster.
Starting XV: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Tiernan OHalloran, 13 Danie Poolman, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion,
1 Brett Wilkinson, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 3 Nathan White (c), 4 George Naoupu, 5 Mike McCarthy, 6 Andrew Browne, 7 Johnny O'Connor, 8 Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: 16. Ethienne Reynecke, 17. Denis Buckley, 18. Ronan Loughney, 19. Michael Swift, 20. Eoghan Grace, 21. Paul O'Donohoe, 22. Matthew Jarvis, 23. Eoin Griffin
Starting XV: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Johne Murphy, 13 Casey Lualala, 12 James Downey, 11 Luke O'Dea, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Peter Stringer,
1 Dave Kilkoyne, 2 Mike Sherry, 3 Stephen Archer, 4 Donnacha O'Callaghan, 5 Barry Holland, 6 Paddy Butler, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 8 James Coughlan (c)
Replacements: 16 Sean Henry, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 BJ Botha, 19 David Foley, 20 Sean Dougall, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Danny Barnes
Connacht welcome back some seasoned players in time for this first Christmas period interpro match. Though the lineup is mostly unchanged from the Biarritz match, White coming into the front row to captain and George replacin Kearney in the 2nd row, there are also some welcome returning faces on the bench. Eoin Griffin makes his awaited return, but must bide his time as Danie Poolman holds onto the starting berth, and Michael Swift will also look to add some late-game grunt.
Munster start with a dangerously heavy center pairing of Lualala and Downey, as well as the means to feed them decent possession in the form of Stringer. Keatley starts at outhalf, and will no doubt be a key man in what looks like a grey day in Galway. On the bench Munster's own young-guns of Hanrahan, who can play at 10 or 12, and Barnes could be testing themselves against the Connacht equivilant before the day is done.
If the weather stays as unsettled as it looks now outside the window, then the match could be a forward dominated affair. Munster have some great backup on the bench, with two Saffa front-rowers, and the big-name Duncan Williams. Connacht are not without their own quality, including the Eagles captain Eoghan Grace, and the now well-developed alternate front row of Buckley, Loughney and Reynecke. There is enough quality in both teams to ensure that this will be close fought, but with a packed Clan Terrace roaring them on perhaps Connacht will have the extras required to deliver.