Munster team named today (Monday) by coach Tony McGahan for Tuesday’s much-anticipated Zurich Challenge match – against New Zealand (Thomond Park, kick-off 7.30pm) – will be led by second row Mick O’Driscoll.
Tony McGahan named the side this afternoon at a media briefiing held at Thomond Park, just after New Zealand had completed their Captain’s run training session at the ground.
The only player included by Munster who saw action for Ireland against the All Blacks on Saturday is replacement prop Tony Buckley. He came on in the second half at Croke Park.
Scrum half Peter Stringer, whose last outing at Thomond Park was against Canada, returns to the provincial fold to partner Paul Warwick at half-back.
Also included in the starting line-up are Mick O’Driscoll, the stand-in captain, Ian Dowling, Donnacha Ryan and Denis Leamy. The quartet have been training recently with Ireland’s GUINNESS Series 2008 panel.
Looking forward to facing some of his former team-mates, Munster’s New Zealand winger-cum-full-back Doug Howlett said: “This game’s been at the back of my head for a long time, it’s an exciting opportunity and may never happen again.
“We’re missing most of our internationals but we’ll do the best with what we’ve got.
“Obviously expectations are pretty high on us but the fans have good rugby minds, they’re realistic.
“They’re looking forward to a great event and a great show.”
Howlett, former New Zealand Maori captain Rua Tipoki and ex-Taranaki centre Lifeimi Mafi famously performed the haka together at the Limerick celebrations of Munster’s Heineken Cup win last May.
So how will it be for Howlett, Tipoki, Mafi and the Wellington-born Jeremy Manning to face the haka and will they ‘haka back’?
“It will be an interesting one. I’ve performed it many a time but never been in front of it,” he admitted.
“I might have to consult our resident Maori (Tipoki) and come up with the correct response in terms of what to do.
“Back home it’s not uncommon to haka back – it’s certainly an option.”
Meanwhile, New Zealand’s selection for the specially-arranged match, 30 years after Munster’s famous 12-0 win over Graham Mourie’s All Blacks, includes just one player who started Saturday’s Test game.
Winger Joe Rokocoko is the only survivor, but coach Graham Henry has chosen a talent-laden line-up which will be captained by scrum half Piri Weepu.
Tasman prop Ben Franks and Taranaki flanker Scott Waldrom will make their bows, becoming All Blacks numbers 1084 and 1085 respectively.
Replacement hooker Hika Elliott and scrum half Alby Mathewson could also make their debuts off the bench.
Henry said: “The Munster match will be a special occasion for the team and the guys are really looking forward to visiting Limerick. The team also knows that it will be a hard, physical match against the European club champions.
“The All Blacks are also delighted to be heading back to Thomond Park for the official opening of the renovated stadium. It’s a special part of rugby history.”
A capacity 26,500-strong crowd is expected for the game which will be televised live on RTE Two.
MUNSTER: Doug Howlett; Barry Murphy, Rua Tipoki, Lifeimi Mafi, Ian Dowling; Paul Warwick, Peter Stringer; Federico Pucciariello, Frankie Sheahan, Timmy Ryan, Mick O’Driscoll (capt), Donnacha Ryan, James Coughlan, Niall Ronan, Denis Leamy.
Replacements: Denis Fogarty, Tony Buckley, Mark Melbourne, Billy Holland, John O’Sullivan, Mike Prendergast, Jeremy Manning.
NEW ZEALAND: Cory Jane; Hosea Gear, Anthony Tuitavake, Isaia Toeava, Joe Rokocoko; Stephen Donald, Piri Weepu (capt); Jamie Mackintosh, Corey Flynn, Ben Franks, Ross Filipo, Jason Eaton, Adam Thomson, Scott Waldrom, Liam Messam.
Replacements: Hika Elliott, John Afoa, Brad Thorn, Kieran Read, Alby Mathewson, Richard Kahui, Mils Muliaina.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)