Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has named a strong team for Thursday’s pre-season clash with Worcester Warriors at Sixways Stadium (kick-off 7.30pm).
In naming an extended squad of 27 players, no less than 14 members of the Munster senior squad are to start, while Academy prop Liam O’Connor completes the starting XV. O’Connor, who made his competitive debut against Stade Francais in January 2016, is named in the front row alongside Rhys Marshall and Stephen Archer.
Jean Kleyn returns in the second row having successfully rehabbed the neck injury that sidelined him since February. He is joined by fellow South African Gerbrandt Grobler, who will make his first start for the province. The Ireland-capped trio of Billy Holland, Tommy O’Donnell and Jack O’Donoghue bring a wealth of experience to the back row.
Duncan Williams and Tyler Bleyendaal resume their partnership at half-back, with powerful centre Jaco Taute forming an all-new pairing with debutant Chris Farrell, another player named in his first Munster matchday squad.
The steady stream of Academy talent from recent seasons is evident in the selected back-three with wingers Alex Wootton and Darren Sweetnam, and recently-graduated full-back Stephen Fitzgerald, all starting. Having just signed a one-year development contract with Munster, former Sale Sharks and England Under-20 prop Ciaran Parker is named on the bench, as is new half-back James Hart from Racing 92.
After his involvement in last week’s scenario-based training match against Connacht, Mike Sherry makes a welcome return to a matchday squad, having overcome the back injury that has kept him sidelined since May 2016. Also named on the bench are club players James Rochford (Dolphin) and Ronan Coffey (sub-Academy and Shannon) following their inclusion in pre-season training to date.
Meanwhile, Worcester have today confirmed that both Donnacha O’Callaghan and Peter Stringer will face their native province. O’Callaghan captains the Aviva Premiership outfit from the second row and the 39-year-old Stringer will start at scrum half.
MUNSTER (v Worcester Warriors): Stephen Fitzgerald, Darren Sweetnam, Chris Farrell, Jaco Taute, Alex Wootton; Tyler Bleyendaal, Duncan Williams; Liam O’Connor, Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Gerbrandt Grobler, Billy Holland, Tommy O’Donnell, Jack O’Donoghue.
Replacements: Mike Sherry, Brian Scott, James Rochford, Sean O’Connor, Ronan Coffey, Gavin Coombes, Sean McCarthy, James Hart, Ian Keatley, Dan Goggin, Ciaran Parker, David Johnston.