Rugby Union

Billy Holland set to make 200th Munster rugby appearance

Ireland's Garry Ringrose with Billy Holland (right) during the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin on Saturday November 12 2016. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
The Irish News

Munster head coach Johann van Graan has named Billy Holland among the replacements for their latest Guinness PRO14 challenge against Connacht at the Galway Sportsground tomorrow night.

The Munster second-row revealed this week how he tossed a coin a number of times, well around 50 actually, to decide whether to take up a contract offer from the UK some years back.

Now the 33-year-old is poised to record a landmark 200th Munster appearance. If he does, he would become only the 10th Munster man to play 200 games for the province.

“I wouldn’t be much of a gambler I must say but I think it ended up 26-24 to stay at Munster,'' he said of his 'toss-of-a-coin' career decision.

“There were a lot of other considerations. My family were all in Cork and Ireland and my now wife was in Ireland so you know it wasn’t just the rugby, there was more to it.''

Munster have made seven changes to the side that defeated Leinster at Thomond Park last weekend

Irish international Peter O’Mahony captains the Munster side as Chris Farrell returns from injury with Tommy O’Donnell, Alex Wootton, Alby Mathewson, Jeremy Loughman and Arno Botha also coming into the starting 15.

Meanwhile Connacht prop Denis Buckley looks set to make his 150th appearance for his province.

The Roscommon man is named in Connacht’s starting side to face Munster in this sell-out inter-pro derby at the Sportsground tomorrow.

Connacht head coach Andy Friend goes into the fixture with six wins from their last seven games.

But Friend told Guinness PRO14 website that his side face another huge challenge against Munster.

“This block of three interpros is a tough series of fixtures and has a huge bearing on the overall context of the season,'' he said

“We were disappointed to lose narrowly to Leinster in Dublin but we showed great character to bounce back and beat a really tough Ulster side last weekend. “This clash with Munster is a big game and we will have to put in a huge performance to get a result on Saturday.

“As always though we will focus on our game. That’s where our focus has been all week and that’s where it has been all season.”

Munster: Andrew Conway; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Dan Goggin, Alex Wootton; Joey Carbery, Alby Mathewson; Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony (C), Tommy O’Donnell, Arno Botha.

Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Dave Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, CJ Stander, Conor Murray, Tyler Bleyendaal, Sammy Arnold.

Connacht (15-9): Darragh Leader, Cian Kelleher, Tom Farrell, Tom Daly, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan (Capt), Dominic Robertson Mc-Coy, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Paul Boyle, Colby Fainga’a, Eoghan Masterson.

Replacements (16-23): Tom McCartney, Peter McCabe, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Cillian Gallagher, Angus Lloyd, David Horwitz, Colm DeBuitlear.

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