Daunting trip south for depleted westerners

Kerryman JJ Hanrahan will be unavailable for Connacht’s trip to Thomond Park. The out-half sustained an ACL injury, ruling him out until early 2025.

Kerryman JJ Hanrahan will be unavailable for Connacht’s trip to Thomond Park. The out-half sustained an ACL injury, ruling him out until early 2025.

The lead-up to an inter-provincial game evokes a heightened sense of fervour among rugby fans on this island.

Connacht vs Munster is a game which has always brimmed with passion and intent, if not always the crispest quality.

Saturday’s game and its many permutations will add another layer of competitiveness to proceedings. These two sides know each other inside out, and as if it needed further emphasising, Connacht’s post-season prospects hang precariously in the balance.

From a squad perspective, Munster appears to be faring much the better of the two teams. The main news emerging form their camp is the loss of influential openside flanker John Hodnett due to a leg injury. His work-rate will be missed by Graham Rowntree’s side, but is nothing compared to Connacht’s injury woes.

The most notable news from a Connacht perspective is the loss of JJ Hanrahan. The Kerryman sustained an ACL injury in the game against the Dragons, and will be out of action until 2025. The out-half had usurped Jack Carty in the out-half position prior to this injury. Furthermore, Connacht will play without the assistance of Cian Prendergast, their busy blindside flanker. It has also been announced that Mack Hansen will not return for the game.

In some positive news, Jack Carty will be available to play in lieu of Hanrahan, and Byron Ralston has returned for the crunch fixture to bolster backline options.

Nine points currently separates the close neighbours in the URC table. Connacht sit in sixth place with 44 points (nine wins, six losses ), while Munster lie in third on 53 points (10 wins, one draw, four losses ).

Munster are currently unbeaten in six games in the URC. Their most impressive victories came against the Bulls, the Ospreys and most recently, the Lions. Connacht may take solace in the fact that Munster’s last URC loss came in Dexcom Stadium, however it is a different side which will grace Limerick’s hallowed turf on Saturday.

The formidable second-row pairing of RG Snyman and Tadhg Beirne will prove a challenging duo to contend with. Munster a difficult side to beat, emerging from their difficult South African tour unscathed.

It appears Connacht will need to put together their best performance of the season to see off their southern rivals. This means an eradication of mistakes which have hindered the westerners of late, plus a consistently positive 80-minute performance.

Pete Wilkins reckons that Connacht need to win two out of their last three games to gain a play-off spot. A win at the weekend is imperative on a number of levels, and expect this fixture to produces fireworks. Wins in Thomond park do not come easy.

Kick-off in Limerick is on Saturday, May 11 at 5.15pm.


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