Hooker Niall Scannell will captain Munster ‘A’ for Friday’s British & Irish Cup opener away to London Scottish at the Athletic Ground in Richmond (kick-off 7.45pm). Head coach Mick O’Driscoll has a mixture of experience and youth from the senior, Academy and club ranks across the matchday squad.
Munster Academy prop Liam O’Connor and Uruguayan international Mario Sagario will start either side of skipper Niall Scannell in the front row, while Academy member Sean McCarthy is partnered by the returning Billy Holland in the second row.
Holland will make his first provincial appearance after rehabbing a broken ankle sustained while representing Emerging Ireland during last summer’s Tbilisi Cup.
In an all-senior back row, Jordan Coghlan and Shane Buckley start at blindside flanker and number 8 respectively and new signing Sean Doyle (pictured below) will line out in red for the first time when he starts at openside.
Just this week out-half Bill Johnston joined the Academy ranks and Friday’s trip to London will see the Clonmel native make his first Munster ‘A’ appearance when he partners Duncan Williams at half-back.
Cian Bohane and Matt D’Arcy join forces in the centre, while Ronan O’Mahony and the Academy’s Stephen Fitzgerald feature on the wings with David Johnston completing a strong Academy representation at full-back.
The mixture of experience and youth is again evident on the bench with Mick O’Driscoll including a couple of emerging talents from the club game. Cork Constitution prop Brendan Quinlan is involved again having featured for the province against Leinster ‘A’ last month, with Cashel’s Sean O’Connor on the cusp of his first Munster ‘A’ cap.
Speaking about this week’s opposition and the make-up of his squad, O’Driscoll said: “London Scottish are a typical English Championship side with a very big pack who work a lot off their set piece and are very strong in the scrum and maul particularly. That will make it a big challenge for us this weekend, especially as that’s an area where we struggled last season.
“They’ve won four from nine but have been unlucky on a couple of occasions and we know we’ll have a tough day at the office.
“We had a particularly young side last year and we’ll have a bit more experience this time around. Last season we had guys playing in the competition for the first time and those players will be that bit more ready for it.
“In saying that, we’ll also have a few young guys who won’t have played B&I Cup rugby yet and it will be great experience for them. At the end of the day it’s about us developing the next crop of players, and hopefully we’ll be able to do that.”
The former second row added: “We try and play a similar system to the Munster senior system and as we don’t have that much time together we keep the game-plan pretty simple, but within that I like to see guys express themselves and play rugby rather than playing to a book.
“We get to see exactly what fellas are made of, especially when they face the guys who have played at that level for a number of years.”
MUNSTER ‘A’ (v London Scottish): David Johnston; Stephen Fitzgerald, Matt D’Arcy, Cian Bohane, Ronan O’Mahony; Bill Johnston, Duncan Williams; Liam O’Connor, Niall Scannell (capt), Mario Sagario, Sean McCarthy, Billy Holland, Jordan Coghlan, Sean Doyle, Shane Buckley.
Replacements (from): Kevin O’Byrne, Rory Burke, Brendan Quinlan, Sean O’Connor, Conor Oliver, Ben Kilkenny, Cathal Sheridan, Darren Sweetnam, Dan Goggin.