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Munster Call On Hayes And O’Connell

Munster Call On Hayes And O’Connell

2005 Lions John Hayes and Paul O’Connell are starters for Munster in tonight’s Celtic League clash with the Scarlets at Musgrave Park.

Paul O’Connell attempts a break in May’s Celtic Cup final

2005 Lions John Hayes and Paul O’Connell are starters for Munster in tonight’s Celtic League clash with the Scarlets at Musgrave Park.

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CELTIC LEAGUE: Friday, September 23

Munster v Llanelli Scarlets, Musgrave Park, 7.10pm (live Setanta Sports)

They join fellow Lions Donncha O’Callaghan and Ronan O’Gara in the side after the latter two blew the summer cobwebs off in last week’s disappointing 32-10 loss to Glasgow – their first competitive outings of the new season.

Last week’s poor display at Hughenden has seen coach Declan Kidney make a wholesale eight changes to the Munster starting fifteen. The most notable alterations are in the backline where 22-year-old Ian Dowling is primed for his Celtic League debut on the left wing.

Dowling scored a try in Monday night’s 7-5 victory for Munster “A” over an Edinburgh side.

Tonight, a refreshed O’Gara links up with his Ireland colleague Peter Stringer, who has shifted an ankle injury, at half-back, flanker Denis Leamy gets the nod ahead of Rob Henderson at outside centre, while another 22-year-old – Barry Murphy – reverts from the right wing to full-back to fill in for the shoulder injury victim Shaun Payne.

Last year’s Munster Academy Player of the season Tomas O’Leary has also made the bench as scrum-half cover.

Up front, Leamy’s move to the backs is covered by team captain Anthony Foley at number 8, Hayes’ inclusion at tighthead sees Italian prop Federico Pucciarello shift to loosehead with O’Connell and O’Callaghan forming the lock partnership behind him.

Injuries to Anthony Horgan (knee), who should be back before the start of the Heineken Cup pool stages, and John O’Sullivan (calf muscle strain), who has not featured competitively for Munster yet, have kept them out of contention.

Kidney, who will have 13 internationals on show from the kick-off, said: “The aim is to be more patient, to be more consistent over the 80 minutes. I think we’d be hoping to pick up from where we left off in the second half of that Warriors game.”

Tonight’s tie, which was originally scheduled for Thomond Park but had to be moved due to vandalism, will see Ireland flanker Simon Easterby lead the Scarlets out in Cork. Llanelli just about edged Connacht last weekend – winning 25-17 in Wrexham – and coach Gareth Jenkins reckons, on current form, there is very little between the eleven teams competing in the League.

“Everyone is beatable at the moment,” Jenkins told the Scarlets’ website. “There are a lot of errors and no one is hitting form. The problem with skills is that you can’t really test them until you’re playing.

“It’s about reaction time under pressure, decisions at tempo and you can never create that sort of pressure pre season. Every September things get off to a stuttering start and this year is no exception.”

The Scarlets, who lie a point above sixth-placed Munster, will be attempting to end the province’s 15-game unbeaten record at home. But while Munster gave departing coach Alan Gaffney the perfect send-off when the sides last met in May’s Celtic Cup final, the Scarlets have won all bar one of the sides’ League meetings.

Last October’s 19-13 win at Thomond Park, in which Alan Quinlan, Christian Cullen and Denis Leamy scored tries, has been Munster’s only success against the Welsh side.

Llanelli have made minimal changes, opting to bring Matthew Watkins back in at centre with former Lion Dafydd James switching to the wing. US Eagles fly-half Mike Hercus also gets in for a start at fly-half.

Veteran lock/back row Chris Wyatt has been ruled out due to an injury suffered in training.

Munster: 2005/06 Form: WWL; Position: 6th; Top Points Scorer: Paul Burke 24; Top Try Scorer: Anthony Horgan 2; Last Season: Munster 19 Llanelli 13, Llanelli 32 Munster 17; Celtic Cup final: Munster 27 Llanelli 16

Llanelli: 2005/06 Form: LWLW; Position: 3rd; Top Points Scorer: Mike Hercus 19; Top Try Scorers: Lee Byrne, Barry Davies 2 each

MUNSTER: Barry Murphy; John Kelly, Denis Leamy, Trevor Halstead, Ian Dowling; Ronan O’Gara, Peter Stringer; Federico Pucciariello, Frank Sheahan, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell, Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, Anthony Foley (Capt).

Replacements: Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, Trevor Hogan, Mick O’Driscoll, Tomas O’Leary, Paul Burke, Rob Henderson.

LLANELLI: Lee Byrne; Dafydd James, Matthew Watkins, Regan King, Tal Selley; Mike Hercus, Clive Stuart-Smith; Iestyn Thomas, Aled Gravelle, John Davies, Hottie Louw, Adam Jones, Simon Easterby (Capt), Gavin Thomas, Alix Popham.

Replacements: Dorian Williams, Craig Hawkins, AN Other, Jonathan Mills, Liam Davies, Gareth Bowen, Darren Daniel.

Referee: Andy Ireland (Scotland)