Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has made four changes for Friday’s sold-out clash with the Maori All Blacks at Thomond Park (kick-off 7.30pm, live on eir Sport 1). Ireland international Tommy O’Donnell will captain the province for the first time.
Three players are in line to make their Munster debuts – short-term signing Te Aihe Toma is included on the bench as are Academy forwards Sean O’Connor and John Foley. O’Connor was part of the Ireland side that defeated New Zealand at this year’s World Rugby Under-20 Championship.
Conor Oliver, Brian Scott and Dan Goggin are also included in the matchday squad, completing a strong Academy representation of five players.
There are three changes up front from last week’s GUINNESS PRO12 win over the Ospreys. James Cronin comes back into the front row with John Madigan making his first start of the season, forming a new second row partnership with Darren O’Shea.
Oliver slots in at openslde flanker with captain Tommy O’Donnell and Robin Copeland making positional switches to form a new-look back row. O’Donnell starts at blindside for the first time since February 2014.
The last change comes at half-back where Ian Keatley will partner Duncan Williams. It is as you were across the midfield and back-three. Returning from Ireland camp and named again on the right wing, Darren Sweetnam is the only player to start every game for Munster this season and makes his tenth consecutive start.
23 clubs and schools from across the province will be represented on the pitch on Friday night having won the #MunsterRising Socks competition, in association with Life Style Sports. Along with seeing their colours on the big stage, winning entrants have the opportunity to lay their club or school socks out for their assigned player in the Munster dressing room before kick-off. (See confirmed clubs and schools below).
MUNSTER (v Maori All Blacks): Andrew Conway; Darren Sweetnam, Jaco Taute, Rory Scannell, Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer, John Madigan, Darren O’Shea, Tommy O’Donnell (capt), Conor Oliver, Robin Copeland.
Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Peter McCabe, Brian Scott, Sean O’Connor, John Foley, Te Aihe Toma, Dan Goggin, Alex Wootton.
MAORI ALL BLACKS: Marty McKenzie; Ambrose Curtis, Matt Proctor, Tim Bateman, James Lowe; Otere Black, Billy Guyton; Kane Hames, Ash Dixon (capt), Ben May; Leighton Price, Tom Franklin; Reed Prinsep, Shane Christie, Akira Ioane.
Replacements: Leni Apisai, Chris Eves, Marcel Renata, Whetu Douglas, Kara Pryor, Brad Webster, Ihaia West, Jason Emery.
#HistoryInTheMaking (Socks) –
James Cronin (Highfield RFC)
Niall Scannell (Presentation Brothers College (PBC))
Stephen Archer (Clonakilty RFC)
John Madigan (Richmond RFC)
Darren O’Shea (Killorglin RFC)
Tommy O’Donnell (capt) (Thurles RFC)
Conor Oliver (Waterpark RFC)
Robin Copeland (Young Munster RFC)
Duncan Williams (St. Senan’s RFC)
Ian Keatley (Thomond RFC)
Ronan O’Mahony (Castletroy College)
Rory Scannell (Muskerry RFC)
Jaco Taute (Ardscoil Rís)
Darren Sweetnam (Bandon Grammar School)
Andrew Conway (Abbeyfeale RFC)
Rhys Marshall (Glenstal Abbey School)
Peter McCabe (Nenagh Ormond RFC)
Brian Scott (Bandon RFC)
Sean O’Connor (Rockwell College)
John Foley (Shannon RFC)
Te Aihe Toma (Crescent College Comprehensive)
Dan Goggin (St. Munchin’s College)
Alex Wootton (Garryowen FC)