The Munster team to face arch rivals Leinster at a sold-out Thomond Park on Saturday evening (kick-off 6pm) has been named by head coach Johann van Graan.
Billy Holland captains the Conference B leaders with seven personnel changes made to the team that defeated Connacht 19-14 at the Sportsground last week.
Mike Haley, Sam Arnold, Rory Scannell, Nick McCarthy, Fineen Wycherley, Tommy O’Donnell and Jack O’Donoghue all come in to start, while the fit-again Joey Carbery is set to make his first Munster appearance of the season off the bench.
There are three Munster Rugby Academy players named among the replacements – Diarmuid Barron, Keynan Knox, who made an impact at scrum time against Connacht, and Jack O’Sullivan.
Ireland international Haley starts at full-back with Dan Goggin and Shane Daly featuring on either flank. Goggin, who has previously played on the wing as a replacement, starts as a winger for the province for the first time.
Arnold and Scannell pair up together in the centre with McCarthy getting the nod at half-back alongside JJ Hanrahan, last week’s man-of-the-match and top scorer in Galway with a 14-point haul.
Munster’s unchanged front row includes Dave Kilcoyne, Kevin O’Byrne and Stephen Archer, and the trio are backed up by skipper Holland and Bantry-born 22-year-old Wycherley in the engine room.
O’Donnell, Chris Cloete and the in-form O’Donoghue complete the province’s starting XV for a festive fixture which has again been nominated as Munster Rugby’s official charity match for this season.
During half-time, representatives from the Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation and the Peter McVerry Trust will each be presented with a signed Munster jersey on the pitch. €1 from each match programme sold will be donated to the respective charities.
Speaking about Carbery’s return, Munster defence coach JP Ferreira said: “It’s brilliant to have him back. It is going to be an interesting game. Hard-fought battles like they always are. It was my first game when I joined Munster.
“I had a feel for it. I wasn’t too involved that week, I only came in that week and I was sitting in the coaches’ box on the side, so I had a good feel. A sell-out crowd, the same as it’s going to be this week, 27,000 people coming to watch a fixture which is massive.
“There are always highs and lows in a game. Funnily enough, in the last couple of games there have been yellow and red cards so, no doubt, it will be interesting again.
“Leinster are the in-form team in Europe. It is going to be a massive game for us. It is going to be a massive game for them. I’m really looking forward to it.”
MUNSTER (v Leinster): Mike Haley; Dan Goggin, Sam Arnold, Rory Scannell, Shane Daly; JJ Hanrahan, Nick McCarthy; Dave Kilcoyne, Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer, Fineen Wycherley, Billy Holland (capt), Tommy O’Donnell, Chris Cloete, Jack O’Donoghue.
Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Jeremy Loughman, Keynan Knox, Darren O’Shea, Jack O’Sullivan, Neil Cronin, Joey Carbery, Calvin Nash.