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Hanrahan Reaches 100 Caps For Much-Changed Munster

Hanrahan Reaches 100 Caps For Much-Changed Munster

Kerry native JJ Hanrahan makes a break during the closing stages of Munster's 45-21 bonus point win at home to Cardiff Blues last weekend ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Munster will field a much-changed team for Friday night’s GUINNESS PRO14 clash with Benetton Rugby at Stadio di Monigo (kick-off 8pm local time/7pm Irish time).

With their Heineken Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens looming large on the horizon, head coach Johann van Graan has made eleven changes to the side that defeated Cardiff Blues 45-21 in Cork last Friday.

Kerryman JJ Hanrahan starts at out-half and will make his 100th senior appearance for Munster, with tighthead prop Stephen Archer making his 150th PRO14 appearance. Mike Haley, Darren Sweetnam, Billy Holland, who captains the province, and Chris Cloete are the players retained from last week’s line-up.

Three Greencore Munster Academy players are included in the matchday squad as Shane Daly and Gavin Coombes feature on the left wing and at number 8 respectively, while Daly’s Cork Constitution and Ireland Sevens colleague, Alex McHenry, is in line to make his PRO14 debut off the bench.

Daly, a try scorer for Con against UCC last Friday, provides power and pace alongside Haley and Sweetnam in the back-three, Sam Arnold and Dan Goggin pair up in the centre, and Hanrahan and New Zealander Alby Mathewson, who were both involved as replacements against Cardiff, are this week’s starting half-backs.

Up front, Jeremy Loughman, Rhys Marshall and Archer pack down together, supported by the 21-year-old Fineen Wycherley and stand-in skipper Holland in the engine room. Jack O’Donoghue, who is back for his third start in four games, Chris Cloete and Coombes make up an athletic back row.

Listed as a replacement, Dave O’Callaghan is set to make his first PRO14 appearance since September after recently returning from a foot injury. He is one of six players who Munster brought back from the Cara Cup competition in Boston, following the ‘A’ team’s 38-19 win over the New England Free Jacks last Saturday.

MUNSTER (v Benetton Rugby): Mike Haley; Darren Sweetnam, Sam Arnold, Dan Goggin, Shane Daly; JJ Hanrahan, Alby Mathewson; Jeremy Loughman, Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer, Fineen Wycherley, Billy Holland (capt), Jack O’Donoghue, Chris Cloete, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Liam O’Connor, Ciaran Parker, Darren O’Shea, Dave O’Callaghan, Neil Cronin, Bill Johnston, Alex McHenry.