AN EXPECTED win by Munster over Emirates Lions at Musgrave Park tonight (kick-off, 7.35pm) will move the province back into reckoning for guaranteed qualification for next season’s Champions Cup, the make-up of which is largely determined on league placings at the end of the current URC.
Munster are currently ninth, with five wins from 11 starts and just outside the top eight, while Lions sit only a couple of places behind.
Ben Healy (23), whose departure at the end of the season for Edinburgh, was announced midweek is included: “This has been a huge decision to make, and working closely with the province I have had the chance to give it the time and consideration it warranted,” he said.
“Making the decision to leave my home club has not been easy and I am hugely grateful for the opportunity to represent my province. As a result, I have a heightened sense of urgency to achieve success with Munster and I look forward to doing everything possible to make this happen in the coming months.”
Munster have yet to be beaten at home by a team from South Africa, but the Lions have won all four away games they’ve played this season, three of which were in the URC and the other in the Challenge Cup.
The only previous meeting of these two sides was in Johannesburg last March, with Munster surrendering a 14-0 half-time lead in a 23-21 defeat.
Munster are unbackable (1/16) favourites this time around.
Munster: Mike Haley; Shane Daly, Malakai Fekitoa, Rory Scannell, Liam Coombes; Ben Healy, Paddy Patterson; Josh Wycherley, Diarmuid Barron, Roman Salanoa; Jean Kleyn, Gavin Coombes; Jack O’Donoghue (captain), John Hodnett, Alex Kendellen.
Replacements: Scott Buckley, Dave Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Cian Hurley, Jack O’Sullivan, Conor Murray, Dan Goggin, Patrick Campbell.
Emirates Lions: Quan Horn; Stean Pienaar, Henco van Wyk, Marius Louw (captain), Edwill van der Merwe; Jordan Hendrikse, Morne van den Berg; JP Smith, PJ Botha, Asenathi Ntlabakanye; Ruan Venter, Darrien Landsberg; Jarod Cairns, Emile van Heerden, Emmanuel Tshituka.
Referee: Hollie Davidson (SRU).