Ireland international Tadhg Beirne will feature for Munster on Sunday for the first time since fracturing an ankle in a Heineken Champions Cup defeat to Saracens last December. 

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The second row was stretchered off at Allianz Park after falling awkwardly just eleven minutes into the European defeat eight months ago and having overcome a setback earlier his month, he is now ready to make a return with Munster seeking a win over Connacht to secure qualification for the Guinness PRO14 semi-finals.  

The inclusion of the 28-year-old is one of five changes to the Munster pack following last Saturday’s defeat to Leinster, a game that witnessed the seventh-minute departure of new signing RG Snyman with an ACL tear following an awkward fall at a lineout. 

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England forward Courtney Lawes guests on All Access, the RugbyPass interview series hosted by Jim Hamilton

Aside from Beirne, Jeremy Loughman, John Ryan, Fineen Wycherley and Chris Cloete are all drafted into the side that retains the same starting backline. Jack O’Donoghue makes the bench following recovery from a recent concussion. 

Coach Johann van Graan said: “Jack came through his return to play protocols very well and it’s great to have him back. Connacht really played well last Sunday against Ulster and it’s always a big battle facing them, we expect a very good game on Sunday.”

Fresh from that win over Ulster at the Aviva, Connacht coach Andy Friend makes 14 changes in what will be his team’s final game of the 2019/20 restart. 

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Among those starting for the first time is Sammy Arnold, the Ireland international who joined from Munster during the off-season. No8 Abraham Papali’i, the New Zealander signed from Bay of Plenty, is also included in an XV where Eoghan Masterson is the only starter retained from last week.

“Our key objective in these two games has always been to give players some much-needed game time while putting in two positive performances which reflects the work they’ve put in as a squad these past few months,” explained Friend.  

“Thankfully we have so far managed to do that after last week’s excellent result. Now is an opportunity for a new group of players to impress so I’m looking forward to seeing them in action.”

MUNSTER: 15. Shane Daly; 14. Andrew Conway, 13. Chris Farrell, 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Keith Earls; 10. JJ Hanrahan, 9 Conor Murray; 1. Jeremy Loughman, 2. Niall Scannell, 3. John Ryan, 4. Fineen Wycherley, 5. Tadhg Beirne, 6. Peter O’Mahony (capt), 7. Chris Cloete, 8. CJ Stander. Reps: 16. Kevin O’Byrne, 17. Liam O’Connor, 18. Stephen Archer, 19. Billy Holland, 20. Jack O’Donoghue, 21. Craig Casey, 22. Rory Scannell, 23. Jack O’Sullivan.

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CONNACHT: 15. Tiernan O’Halloran; 14. Colm de Buitlear, 13. Sammy Arnold, 12. Tom Daly, 11. Matt Healy; 10. Conor Fitzgerald, 9. Caolin Blade; 1. Paddy McAllister, 2. Shane Delahunt, 3. Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 4. Niall Murray, 5. Quinn Roux (capt), 6. Eoghan Masterson, 7. Conor Oliver, 8. Abraham Papali’i. Reps: 16. Jonny Murphy, 17. Conor Kenny, 18. Matthew Burke, 19. Ultan Dillane, 20. Seán Masterson, 21. Stephen Kerins, 22. Peter Robb, 23. Conor Dean.

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