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Munster Hand First Starts To Liam And Sean O’Connor

Munster Hand First Starts To Liam And Sean O’Connor

Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has named his team for Munster’s GUINNESS PRO14 opener against Benetton Rugby at Irish Independent Park on Friday (kick-off 7.35pm).

There are just two changes to the side that defeated Worcester Warriors in pre-season action last week, Academy flanker Sean O’Connor coming into the back row to make his first PRO14 appearance and returning Ireland international Andrew Conway joining the back-three at full-back.

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Retaining his starting place after an impressive showing in pre-season, loosehead Liam O’Connor is the second Academy player to make his first start and packs down alongside Rhys Marshall and Stephen Archer.

The addition of Sean O’Connor to the back row sees Billy Holland revert to the tight five where he is partnered by Jean Kleyn in the second row.. The South African has successfully rehabbed the neck injury that saw him miss the end of last season. Openside Tommy O’Donnell, who has come through the return-to-play protocols, and number 8 Jack O’Donoghue complete the pack.

Notching a brace of tries in Worcester, Duncan Williams continues at half-back alongside captain Tyler Bleyendaal, while Chris Farrell will make his competitive debut for the province as he partners Jaco Taute in midfield.

Wingers Alex Wootton and Darren Sweetnam join Conway in the back-three, the latter drawing ever closer to 100 PRO14 appearances. The Dubliner, who started Ireland’s two Tests against Japan in June, will play in the competition for the 98th time on Friday night.

Named on the bench, long term injury returnee Mike Sherry could play his first competitive game since May 2016, with James Hart and Ciaran Parker in line for PRO14 debuts. Robin Copeland has overcome a shoulder injury in timely fashion for the new season and also takes his place on the bench.

In injury news, following a scan for the ankle knock he sustained in Worcester, Gerbrandt Grobler will meet with a specialist next week, Conor Oliver undergoes shoulder surgery this week and is expected to be sidelined until the new year, while James Cronin underwent a knee scope and will be unavailable for the opening rounds of the season.

With Munster looking to lay down marker for the season ahead, supporters can start this weekend by cheering on the province under the floodlights at Irish Independent Park. Tickets – junior €;7, adult €;20 and family €;40 – can be purchased online here, or at the ground on Friday night.

MUNSTER (v Benetton Rugby): Andrew Conway, Darren Sweetnam, Chris Farrell, Jaco Taute, Alex Wootton; Tyler Bleyendaal (capt), Duncan Williams; Liam O’Connor, Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland, Sean O’Connor, Tommy O’Donnell, Jack O’Donoghue.

Replacements: Mike Sherry, Brian Scott, Ciaran Parker, Fineen Wycherley, Robin Copeland, James Hart, Ian Keatley, Dan Goggin.