MUNSTER head coach Johann van Graan has named eight of Ireland’s World Cup squad for Saturday's Guinness PRO14 Interpro derby against Ulster at Thomond Park (5.15pm).
Cork’s Peter O’Mahony returns to captain the side with Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Jean Kleyn and CJ Stander all named in the starting 15 with Conor Murray among the replacements.
The call to leave Alby Mathewson in as the starting nine is significant and he is only one of three players along with Chris Clote and JJ Hanrahan who retained their starting places from last week’s side that beat Cardiff.
Mathewson will be joined by in the half back by Hanrahan who was another to impress last weekend as van Graan makes a total of 12 changes to his side for this derby clash.
Van Graan has also made another big call with West Cork’s Academy winger Liam Coombes makes his second Munster start with Mike Haley and Conway completing the back three.
Van Graan has also gone for plenty of experience in the centre of the field with Rory Scannell and Chris Farrell forming a formidable looking 12 and 13.
As expected Niall Scannell comes back into the centre of the front row with fellow Corkonian Kevin O’Bryne looking to cement his place tomorrow for the following weekend’s Champions Cup opener against Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium.
O’Byrne was one of the standout performers as well in Cardiff and will see some more game time this evening.
Niall Scannell is flanked in the front row by James Cronin, who will look to put another impressive 80 minutes under his belt in one of the most hotly contested positions on the pitch with Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne, Jeremy Loughman – on the bench today – and Liam O’Connor battling for two spots on the European matchday squad today week.
Jean Kleyn will be looking to put down a marker this week as well as he lines up with the hearbeat of the tightfive Billy Holland while O’Mahony, Cloete and Stander are named in the back row.
To show how competitive this squad has become, last weekend’s captain Jack O’Donoghue has to be content with a place on the bench this week.
MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Liam Coombes; JJ Hanrahan, Alby Mathewson; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (C), Chris Cloete, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Jeremy Loughman, Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer, Fineen Wycherley, Jack O’Donoghue, Conor Murray, Tyler Bleyendaal, Arno Botha.