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Munster’s Back-Line Is Bolstered By Earls, Murray And Scannell

Munster’s Back-Line Is Bolstered By Earls, Murray And Scannell

Keith Earls, Rory Scannell and Conor Murray celebrate together following Munster's Heineken Champions Cup pool win over Castres Olympique at Thomond Park earlier in the season ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Munster head coach Johann van Graan has finalised his team to play Benetton Rugby in Saturday’s GUINNESS PRO14 quarter-final fixture at Thomond Park (kick-off 3pm).

Kids go free for this weekend’s knockout clash, while match tickets are available from just €25 online here and you can order two free junior tickets with each ticket purchased. The winners of Saturday’s game will advance to a May 18 date with defending champions Leinster at the RDS (kick-off 3pm).

Peter O’Mahony captains the Munstermen from the back row, with three changes made to the team that defeated Connacht 27-14 last weekend as Rory Scannell, Keith Earls and Conor Murray return to the back-line. Murray is back at scrum half after a neck injury during the warm-up saw him sit out the Connacht game.

Mike Haley, one of their three try scorers in the last round of the PRO14’s regular season, starts at full-back with Andrew Conway and Earls on either winger. Scannell’s inclusion in midfield sees Dan Goggin revert to the bench and Chris Farrell switches places, donning the number 13 jersey this week.

Murray and Tyler Bleyendaal, who continues at out-half in Joey Carbery’s injury-enforced absence, lead the back-line behind an unchanged pack. Stephen Archer and Chris Cloete are the only alterations to the eight that started against Saracens, the province facing the Italians just a few weeks on from their 37-28 comeback win in Treviso.

Speaking about Benetton’s strengths, van Graan said: “They have a very good set piece. A team with a lot of confidence, two fantastic wingers, (Dewaldt) Duvenage at nine is a very good player with that left foot of his. Their eight carried very well against us.

“They deserve their place in the play-offs. On their last two visits they drew with Leinster and Ulster, who scored a try with the last play of the game. They have won six of their last seven away. They are a very good side with a lot of confidence. International players all over the park. It’s going to be a big game for us.”

MUNSTER (v Benetton Rugby): Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Chris Cloete, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Jeremy Loughman, John Ryan, Billy Holland, Arno Botha, Alby Mathewson, JJ Hanrahan, Dan Goggin.