Munster felt the force of London Irish at full swagger in October, losing 23-17 in round 1 of the competition at the Majedski Stadium, but since then Saturday’s visitors have suffered from a significant fall from grace. Having started the domestic season with plenty of promise, Toby Booth’s men ended 2010 on a losing streak which lasted for 10 games, and ended last weekend at home to the Ospreys. A week that should have seen the Londoners on a mini high has brought news that centre Seilala Mapusua is to leave the club at the end of this season, and an 8-week ban for England full-back Delon Armitage, leaving Topsy Ojo to fill the gap at 15 on Saturday.
As if Munster’s loss to Toulon last week wasn’t humiliating enough, especially after their 45-18 drubbing of the French side in October at Thomond Park, they are now coming to terms with failing to qualify for the European quarter finals for the first time in 12 years. This news will not have been taken lightly in Limerick by players and fans alike, and they are now eyeing up a win in the Amlin Challenge Cup to make amends for their untimely exit.
My three wishes for the game:
1) London Irish to give their hosts a scare – I think turning over Munster at Thomond Park will be too much of an ask, but the Londoners need to build on last week’s win if they want to rediscover their form and start climbing back up the Premiership table. Let’s see some of that attacking rugby they’re famous for, so Munster have to work for every point.
2) Munster to play with 15 men on the pitch – for the full 80 minutes please fellas. Tony McGahan’s men have shot themselves in the foot this season with their poor discipline, and 14 men don’t win trophies.
3) Nick Kennedy to have a blinder in the lineout – with injuries to Courtney Lawes and Steve Borthwick, and Dave Attwood serving his own suspension, there’s a small opening in the England door. The Kennedy/Bob Casey second-row partnership has long been hailed as one of the most successful in the Premiership, and this is a great opportunity for those on the fringes to show Martin Johnson and co what they’re missing.
Munster: J Murphy; D Howlett, K Earls, L Mafi, D Hurley; R O’Gara, T O’Leary; W du Preez, D Varley, J Hayes; M O’Driscoll, P O’Connell; D Wallace, N Ronan, D Leamy (capt).
Replacements: M Sherry, D Hurley, T Buckley, D O’Callaghan, J Coughlan, P Stringer, S Deasy, T Gleeson.
London Irish: T Ojo; A Thompstone, E Seveali’i, S Mapusua (capt), S Tagicakibau; D Bowden, D Allinson; A Corbisiero, J Buckland, F Rautenbach, N Kennedy, M Garvey, G Stowers, J Gibson, C Hala’ufia.
Replacements: B Blaney, D Murphy, P Ion, R Thorpe, K Roche, M Watson, R Lamb, P Hodgson
Watch the highlights from the London Irish v Munster thriller in October last year!