Calvin Nash and Fineen Wycherley have been brought into the Munster team to play the Ospreys in Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup round 6 encounter at Thomond Park (kick-off 1pm). Tickets, from just €20 are available to buy online here.
Munster go into the final round of the pool stages with a very slim chance of qualifying for a record 19th Champions Cup quarter-final. Currently lying third in Pool 4, a win over the Welsh side is imperative if the province are to stand any chance of progressing.
Elsewhere in the pool, Johann van Graan’s men need Racing 92 to defeat Saracens in London and ensure that the reigning champions pick up fewer than two match points. If Munster can claim second place, results elsewhere will dictate whether or not they will make it through to the last-eight.
Nash is promoted for his Champions Cup debut on the left wing, while fellow 22-year-old Wycherley comes in for his first European start – and 14th appearance of the season – as he has completed the return-to-play protocols.
Dave Kilcoyne starts on his landmark 50th Champions Cup appearance, combining with Niall Scannell and Stephen Archer in the front row, and Billy Holland, Wycherley’s second row partner, will play his 225th Munster game, moving up to fourth on the all-time list ahead of Marcus Horan.
Captain Peter O’Mahony, Jack O’Donoghue and CJ Stander are the loose forwards trio again, while Nash links up with Mike Haley and Andrew Conway in the back-three, and the province fields the same centre and half-back combinations in Chris Farrell and Rory Scannell, and JJ Hanrahan and Conor Murray.
Keith Earls and Shane Daly are notable absentees from the backs division. They were both unavailable for selection this week having picked up a minor knee injury and a thumb injury respectively.
Greencore Munster Rugby Academy duo Jack O’Sullivan and Ben Healy are included among the replacements and are in line to make their Champions Cup debuts. Craig Casey, who made his European bow against Racing 92 last week, remains the back-up scrum half.
Vastly-experienced lock Holland commented: “All their Welsh players coming back are confident, they’re also fit and incredibly good players who are trying to bring, I suppose, the rest of the lads who are probably a little bit down, to bring up their confidence levels and guys like that with nothing to lose are dangerous.
“Alun Wyn Jones will relish coming over to Thomond Park on Sunday afternoon and giving it a go and having a lash off us. Rugby can be so strange. You can you can go into a downward spiral so quickly, but you can equally come out of one with one really big performance.
“If the Ospreys were to come over from their point of view, to Thomond Park and win in Europe, that’s going to kick-start their season massively, and that’s all they need is one big win.
“I think when you look at us from our performance point of view, some of our performances have been really good and going in the right direction, for sure. Other than the Ulster game, where it was totally unacceptable performance, performance has been really good.
“We’ve let ourselves down in the last five to ten minutes of the Sarries game and the game last weekend. And we started badly against Leinster, you know, 13-0 down back to 13-6 with 35 minutes to go and we just couldn’t break them down.
“So, yeah, you know, is our confidence sky high? No, it’s not. But we know that our performances are going in the right direction, so it’s not fully there yet but it needs to be there at that level in places like Paris and London. You need to be at the top of your game.”
MUNSTER (v Ospreys): Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Calvin Nash; JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer, Fineen Wycherley, Billy Holland, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Jeremy Loughman, John Ryan, Arno Botha, Jack O’Sullivan, Craig Casey, Ben Healy, Dan Goggin.