Peter O’Mahony and Simon Zebo have been ruled out of Munster’s crucial URC duel in Belfast tomorrow night but Joey Carbery has been cleared to play.
“Mahony did not get through a week of training with Niall Scannell after both suffered minor knocks in last weekend’s win against Exeter, while Zebo was sidelined for personal reasons.
Ulster out-half Billy Burns failed to recover from a concussion so Mike Lowry returns to the out-half as Dan McFarland’s side attempt to defend their second-place finish and a favorable home play-off route to a final in the to strengthen June.
There are seven changes from the Munster side who beat Exeter Chiefs last weekend.
Craig Casey and Shane Daly join the backline and there’s a new front row of Jeremy Loughman, Diarmuid Barron and Stephen Archer.
Thomas Ahern comes in second row and Greencore Munster Rugby Academy man Alex Kendellen starts in 8th place.
Jack O’Donoghue captains Munster and changes position to blindside flanker.
Mike Haley starts at full-back with Keith Earls and Daly on either flank. Damian de Allende and Chris Farrell continue their center partnership with Casey and Carbery at half-backs.
Jean Kleyn supports Ahern in Engineering while O’Donoghue, John Hodnett and Kendellen complete the side.
Academy hooker Scott Buckley is one of the substitutes and is set to make his sixth appearance of the season.
For Ulster, Stewart Moore will start at full-back, while Rob Baloucoune and Ethan McIlroy will be on the wings after last Saturday’s agonizing Round of 16 defeat by Toulouse.
Stuart McCloskey and James Hume form the midfield pair. Lowry makes a position change to start alongside John Cooney at Scrum-Half in the Out-Half.
Last weekend’s grid was retained, with Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring and Marty Moore selected.
Captain Iain Henderson and Alan O’Connor also keep their starting places. Matty Rea and Jordi Murphy will join on blindside and openside flanks while Nick Timoney switches to number eight.
Brad Roberts, Eric O’Sullivan, Gareth Milasinovich, Sam Carter and Sean Reidy provide front cover off the bench while Nathan Doak, Ian Madigan and Ben Moxham provide defensive options.
It will be a duel between second and fourth in the URC standings, with Ulster currently three points clear of the southern provinces.
After 15 rounds of competition, Ulster have won 10 from losing five, while Munster’s record to date is 9 wins 6 losses.
With just three regular season games left, the race for the URC Playoffs is heating up. The top eight make it, with the top four earning home field advantage for the Quarterfinals.
Ulster have lost their last two United Rugby Championship games and are unbeaten in three consecutive league games since 2018. They have won their last seven games at Kingspan Stadium in the Championship since Connacht defeated them there during last season’s Rainbow Cup.
Ulster have won both previous home games against other Irish provinces this season.
Munster’s only win in the last four United Rugby Championship matches was 51-22 against Benetton in Cork on 25 March.
They have lost their last four away games in all competitions and have not lost five in a row on their trips since 2006.
Munster beat Ulster 18-13 at Thomond Park in January but have not reached a league-season doubles against the Northern men since 2016/17 and since winning there in October the last four times they have visited Belfast, lost by a single point in 2016.
Munster: Mike Haley; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Shane Daly; Joey Carbery, Craig Casey; Jeremy Loughman, Diarmuid Barron, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Thomas Ahern; Jack O’Donoghue (C), John Hodnett, Alex Kendellen.
Substitutes: Scott Buckley, Josh Wycherley, John Ryan, Jason Jenkins, Fineen Wycherley, Conor Murray, Ben Healy, Chris Cloete.
Ulster – Stewart Moore, Rob Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Ethan McIlroy, Mike Lowry, John Cooney; Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (Captain), Matty Rea, Jordi Murphy, Nick Timoney.
Substitutes: Brad Roberts, Eric O’Sullivan, Gareth Milasinovich, Sam Carter, Sean Reidy, Nathan Doak, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (SARU)
ULSTER RUGBY vs. MUNSTER RUGBY
Kingspan Stadium, Belfast, 7.35pm.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/pro14/joey-carbery-clear-to-play-for-munster-as-omahony-and-zebo-miss-crucial-ulster-match-41573852.html Joey Carbery clear to play for Munster as O’Mahony and Zebo miss crucial game against Ulster