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Milestone Match For O’Callaghan

Milestone Match For O’Callaghan

Donncha O’Callaghan will make his 63rd Heineken Cup appearance and win his 150th competitive Munster cap when the province take the pitch against Northampton Saints in Saturday’s Heineken Cup Pool 1 clash at Franklin’s Gardens.

Munster’s big guns are back for their European opener, with team captain Paul O’Connell, David Wallace, Alan Quinlan, Jerry Flannery and Paul Warwick all returning to the starting line-up.

Coming in for the suspended John Hayes at tighthead prop is Tony Buckley, while South African centre Jean de Villiers will make his Heineken Cup debut, partnering Lifeimi Mafi in midfield.

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Saturday’s game, which has a 6pm kick-off, will have plenty of Irish interest as James Downey, Neil Best and Roger Wilson are in the Northampton side.

Looking forward to his 150th competitive cap for Munster, second row Donncha O’Callaghan is eager to get the province back in contention for European silverware.

“This competition is special. It’s something that’s very close to Munster supporters and we know that,” he said.

“Maybe it’s because at the start off we didn’t do so well and people thought, ‘sure God love them’. Then we won a few games, got to a final and just wouldn’t let go.

“And our supporters bought into it. They’re brilliant. and that’s why we feel we left them down last year. And last weekend (against Leinster) as well.”

He added: “Northampton are a smashing side. Not unlike us. A proud provincial side. Great support. Great tradition. A good footballing side. And they don’t lose too often at Franklin’s Gardens.

“We’re coming off a disappointing result last weekend. We know what we have to do. We’ve worked hard this week and hopefully we’ll give a good account of ourselves.”

MUNSTER (v Northampton Saints): Paul Warwick; Doug Howlett, Lifeimi Mafi, Jean de Villiers, Keith Earls; Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary; Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, Tony Buckley, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell (capt), Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, Denis Leamy.

Replacements: Denis Fogarty, Julien Brugnaut, Darragh Hurley, Mick O’Driscoll, Niall Ronan, Donnacha Ryan, Peter Stringer, Ian Dowling.