CJ Stander captains the Munster team on his return from Ireland duty as they resume their GUINNESS PRO14 campaign at home to Zebre at Thomond Park on Saturday night (kick-off 7.45pm).
Waterford native Jack O’Donoghue also makes his first start since recovering from a serious knee injury, as Johann van Graan selects a side showing seven changes to the one that lost 10-6 away to the Scarlets in a tight game three weeks ago.
Alex Wootton, JJ Hanrahan, Stephen Archer, Darren O’Shea, O’Donoghue, Chris Cloete and Stander all come back into the starting XV. Munster have not lost at home in any tournament since December 2017 when Leinster visited Thomond Park for a PRO14 derby.
As the province seek to make it 19 wins over Italian opponents in the Championship, Mike Haley starts at full-back with Darren Sweetnam and Wootton on either wing. Rory Scannell, who has scored a try in each of his last four games against Zebre, and Dan Goggin continue their centre partnership with Hanrahan and Alby Mathewson at half-back.
It is all change in the loose forwards as O’Donoghue, Cloete and stand-in captain Stander combine, while 21-year-old talent Fineen Wycherley moves into the second row where he partners fellow Corkman Darren O’Shea, and tighthead Archer rejoins Jeremy Loughman and hooker Rhys Marshall in the front row.
Munster’s replacements bench includes Niall Scannell, John Ryan and Chris Farrell, who were in international camp the last few weeks, and New Zealander Tyler Bleyendaal is poised to make his 50th appearance for the province. Buy tickets for Munster v Zebre online here and from the Munster Rugby Ticket Offices in Thomond Park and Irish Independent Park.
MUNSTER (v Zebre): Mike Haley; Darren Sweetnam, Dan Goggin, Rory Scannell, Alex Wootton; JJ Hanrahan, Alby Mathewson; Jeremy Loughman, Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer, Fineen Wycherley, Darren O’Shea, Jack O’Donoghue, Chris Cloete, CJ Stander (capt).
Replacements: Niall Scannell, Liam O’Connor, John Ryan, Jean Kleyn, Arno Botha, Duncan Williams, Tyler Bleyendaal, Chris Farrell.