Felix Jones will make a welcome return for Munster ‘A’ when he lines out at full-back for their British & Irish Cup opener against Plymouth Albion at Brickfields on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).
Felix Jones has not played since the RaboDirect PRO12 clash with Ulster last May, coincidentally Paul O’Connell’s last game as well, and both players return to action this weekend albeit on different sides of the English Channel.
Munster ‘A; head coach Ian Costello has made wholesale changes to the team that was beaten by Connacht last time out. The starting line-up includes a host of players, besides Jones, with plenty of RaboDirect PRO12 experience.
Duncan Williams and Scott Deasy were the starting half-backs when Munster ‘A’ won the British & Irish Cup title with victory over Cross Keys last season.
Along with forwards Ian Nagle and Tommy O’Donnell, Williams and Deasy have a wealth of league experience to call on
Two of the Munster representatives on the Ireland Under-20 Junior World Championship squad, JJ Hanrahan and Shane Buckley, are also among the starters to face Plymouth.
Costelloe’s selected side also includes two props, John Ryan and Alan Cotter, who have had recent English Premiership experience with London Irish.
Ryan went over first on a three-week temporary contract and on his return Cotter made the journey and also gained valuable game-time.
Costello has left one place to be filled on the replaacements bench and is expected to make that call after training this afternoon.
Commenting on the first opponents for Munster ‘A’ in this season’s competition, Costello said: “We’ve seen a couple of games Plymouth have played. They’ve had an excellent start to the season. Their best start in recent years.
“They’ve won four of their first five games in the Championship and currently they’re third. From what footage we’ve seen of them they’re a very big, strong physical side. Very direct but capable of moving the ball as well.
“It’s a competition that for a few years we’ve been striving to win. And to win it last year and especially at home gave us a huge boost.
“I suppose what it does is, it creates a bit of excitement around the start of the competition this season. There is a certain pressure that comes with being champions. You’ve got to set certain standards.
“That’s a challenge the lads will embrace. They’ll set themselves high standard. They’ll ask a lot of each other.
“And our focus, first and foremost, will be to get a win this Saturday. We follow up with a home game in Tralee the following week which is pretty exciting as well. So, we’re just looking at this block of the first two games.”
MUNSTER ‘A’ (v Plymouth Albion): Felix Jones; Ronan O’Mahony, Cian Bohane, JJ Hanrahan, Corey Hircock; Scott Deasy, Duncan Williams; John Ryan, Sean Henry (capt), Alan Cotter, Ian Nagle, Brian Hayes, Shane Buckley, Barry O’Mahony, Tommy O’Donnell.
Replacements: Duncan Casey, Christy Condon, Philip Donnellan, Sean Rennison, Cathal Sheridan, AN Other, Johnny Holland.