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O’Leary To Make Heineken Cup Debut

O’Leary To Make Heineken Cup Debut

Young scrum half Tomas O’Leary will make his European debut for Munster in tonight’s Heineken Cup Pool 1 opener against Sale Sharks.

O’Leary releasing the Munster backs recently against Llanelli

Young scrum half Tomas O’Leary will make his European debut for Munster in tonight’s Heineken Cup Pool 1 opener against Sale Sharks.

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HEINEKEN CUP: POOL 1: Friday, October 21

Sale Sharks v Munster, Edgeley Park, 7.30pm (Sky Sports)

Munster coach Declan Kidney has stuck with the same starting line-up that demolished Leinster 33-9 two weeks ago in the Celtic League.

Most notably, Dolphin youngster O’Leary will continue to deputise for Ireland pivot Peter Stringer, who has failed to recover from a knee injury in time for the trip to Stockport. 22-year-old UL Bohs starlet Barry Murphy will also make his European bow in a midfield partnership with former Great Britain rugby league full-back Gary Connolly.

Continuing the youthful look to the Munster squad, New Zealand-born Jeremy Manning, who turned 20 last month, will provide fly half back-up for Ronan O’Gara instead of former Irish international Paul Burke.

O’Leary, who celebrates his 22nd birthday on Saturday, has three Celtic League caps to his name but boasts oodles of talent and the Ireland Sevens international, who is a son of former Cork hurler Seanie O’Leary, will not be overawed at at home of the current Guinness Premiership leaders.

Following his second start for the province against Leinster last time out, O’Leary said: “It’s great to be involved with a squad like Munster.

“It’s my first season playing with them and they are a great bunch of lads. It’s great to be playing with them; they are all experienced players. Peter (Stringer) passes on advice but most of the guys play for the country and lead you along the way.”

Elsewhere in the Munster side, with Ireland lock Paul O’Connell still nursing a fractured thumb, Mick O’Driscoll will play his first Heineken Cup match in Munster red in over two years, partnering Donncha O’Callaghan.

The clash with Sale marks Munster skipper Anthony Foley’s 68th appearance in a Heineken Cup game. All going well, the Shannon number 8 should hit the magical 70-cap mark on December 10 when Kidney’s charges travel to Rodney Parade to meet the Dragons.

Sale Director of Rugby Philippe Saint-Andre named his starting XV on Thursday. It includes six players from the 2005 Lions tour – Mark Cueto, team captain Jason Robinson, Charlie Hodgson, Andrew Sheridan, Andy Titterrell and Jason White – as well as some notable internationals.

Argentinian lock Ignacio Fernandez-Lobbe, French number 8 Sebastien Chabal, former Wales and Lions centre/wing Mark Taylor, Samoan centre Elvis Sevealai’i and Tongan scrum half Silio Martens have all been selected to start.

The Sale camp is a pretty buoyant one at the minute – Saint-Andre’s side hold a one-point lead over Leicester Tigers at the top of the Guinness Premiership table, England winger Cueto recently set a new Premiership record for eight tries in eight consecutive Premiership games while tough-tackling flanker White has been named as Scotland’s captain for the autumn internationals.

Saint-Andre, the former French captain who earned 69 Test caps, said of tonight’s clash: “This will be a very tough game. Munster are a good side and will be afforded our respect. We need to be on top of our game from the kick-off and for the whole 80 minutes.

“The Sale Sharks supporters will create a great atmosphere in a capacity crowd and all my players are ready for the challenge.”

Sale officials confirmed on Thursday afternoon that 10,641 spectators are due to pack into Edgeley Park in what will be a record Heineken Cup attendance for last season’s Challenge Cup winners.

SALE SHARKS: Daniel Larrechea; Mark Cueto, Mark Taylor, Elvis Sevealai’i, Jason Robinson (Capt); Charlie Hodgson, Sililo Martens; Andrew Sheridan, Andy Titterrell, Stuart Turner, Chris Jones, Ignacio Fernandez-Lobbe, Jason White, Magnus Lund, Sebastien Chabal.

Replacements (from): Sebastien Bruno, Barry Stewart, Ben Coutts, Chris Day, Nathan Bonner Evans, Dean Schofield, Valentin Courrent, Robert Todd, Steve Hanley, Oriol Ripol.

MUNSTER: Shaun Payne; John Kelly, Barry Murphy, Gary Connolly, Anton Pitout; Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary; Marcus Horan, Frank Sheahan, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll, Alan Quinlan, Denis Leamy, Anthony Foley (Capt).

Replacements: Jerry Flannery, Federico Pucciarello, Trevor Hogan, David Wallace, Peter Stringer, Jeremy Manning, Rob Henderson.

Referee: Jokl Jutge (France)