Munster are set to be without several key players for their United Rugby Championship (URC) clash with Ulster on New Year’s Day.
The Irish province will need to rotate their Ireland internationals over the coming weeks, with Champions Cup fixtures against Toulouse and Northampton coming up.
During Munster’s recent block of five matches, key players such as Peter O’Mahony, Joey Carbery, Tadhg Beirne, Craig Casey and Jack Crowley have featured throughout.
However, Ireland internationals are only allowed to play a certain number of matches which will force Graham Rowntree’s hand with the Six Nations fast approaching.
Rowntree may opt to mix and match his internationals with the other squad members for the URC tie with Ulster, a crucial match for the province, which sits in 11th place on the overall table, three spots outside the play-offs.
A few players have already been ruled out of the clash with Ulster through injury.
Hooker Diarmuid Barron failed an HIA in the defeat to Leinster and will miss the New Year’s Day fixture, while Jean Kleyn was sent for scans on his knee injury; he is unlikely to make the matchday 23.
Jeremy Loughman (thigh), John Hodnett (thigh), Tom Ahern (shoulder), Fineen Wycherley (shoulder), Paddy Kelly (head), Jack Daly (knee), Andrew Conway (knee), and Keynan Knox (knee) are all unavailable.
While there was a positive update on RG Snyman’s recovery last week, he is only expected to return later in January.
On a positive note, Mike Haley returned to training this week after missing the Leinster clash.
Ulster v Munster stats
Ulster have been in good form this URC season losing just two of their nine matches in the competition, both against table-topping Leinster, who are the only side to taste victory at Kingspan Stadium this campaign.
Munster’s two=game winning run in the URC came to an end against Leinster last time out, but the Munstermen have won their last two away games, against Edinburgh and Northampton Saints.
Rowntree’s charges have struggled against their fellow Irish provinces of late, winning just one of their seven Interpro matches, with Ulster defeating them in their last two encounters.
Ulster have not won three in succession over Munster since 2009. However, Munster defeated Ulster in Belfast in April, but that was their only victory from their last six visits to the Kingspan.
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