Munster name strong team for Champions Cup opener in Wales 

Munster name strong team for Champions Cup opener in Wales 
Peter O'Mahony tackles Conor Oliver during a Munster Rugby squad training session. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Head Coach Johann van Graan has made five changes, one of his lowest amount so far this season, to his side who face Ospreys in their Champions Cup opener in Swansea tomorrow (5.30pm, live on BT Sport).

Keith Earls starts his first Munster game of the season with Tyler Bleyendaal starting in place of JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray, Jeremy Loughman and Tommy O’Donnell also coming into the starting 15.

The call to start Loughman was a close one with Ballincollig’s James Cronin in a good run of form in recent games.

Mike Haley starts at full-back with last week’s match-winner Andrew Conway and Earls on either flank.

Earls will be in for a busy evening as he faces one of the Ospreys' most potent attackers, Hanno Dirksen.

Van Graan has picked a midfield pairing of Rory Scannell and Chris Farrell to deal with the threat that Ospreys will pose through the centre primarily from Scott Williams while the equally robust Dan Goggin will provide cover for the Munster pair should it be needed.

The younger of the Scannell brothers will also provide cover for Bleyendaal at 10 having played through schools, Irish U20s and Dolphin in the position.

Loughman, Niall Scannell and John Ryan pack down in the front row with Loughman making his first Champions Cup start tomorrow.

Jean Kleyn and Billy Holland start in the engine room with captain Peter O’Mahony, Tommy O’Donnell, who will have his hands full dealing with Olly Cracknell, and CJ Stander completing the side.

Tadhg Beirne is named among the replacements and is in line to make his first Munster appearance of the season while Bishopstown’s Kevin O’Byrne is named at number 16 after a string of impressive performances.

The team had their captain’s run yesterday at the Liberty Stadium and will be looking to get their campaign off to a winning start against a side that are in the middle of a poor run at present.

MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray; Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (c), Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Tadhg Beirne, Arno Botha, Alby Mathewson, Sammy Arnold, Dan Goggin.

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