The Munster team to play Zebre at Milan’s Stadio Giovanni Mari in the GUINNESS PRO14 on Friday night (kick-off 8.35pm local time/7.35pm Irish time) shows six changes in personnel.
Following on from their record-breaking 68-3 victory over the Isuzu Southern Kings, head coach Johann van Graan has handed the captaincy to hooker Niall Scannell for the first time.
James Cronin, stand-in skipper Scannell and John Ryan make up the unchanged all-international front row, backed up by Fineen Wycherley and Darren O’Shea in the engine room.
Arno Botha, the province’s hat-trick hero last time out, shifts to start at blindside flanker for the first time, with Chris Cloete coming in at openside and Academy number 8 Jack O’Sullivan getting his second PRO14 start of the season.
Limerick young gun Craig Casey is also selected for his second PRO14 start, joining JJ Hanrahan at half-back. Sam Arnold and Rory Scannell form the centre partnership this week, supported by an unchanged back-three of Mike Haley, Calvin Nash and Shane Daly.
Tommy O’Donnell and Darren Sweetnam are in line for a return off the bench after overcoming their respective hamstring injuries. O’Donnell last played against Leinster in December, while Sweetnam, who got game-time with Cork Constitution last week, has been sidelined since October.
It will be proud day for the Scannell and O’Sullivan familes as Niall gets to lead his brother Rory and cousin Jack, the 21-year-old back rower, out on the field for the first time.
MUNSTER (v Zebre): Mike Haley; Calvin Nash, Sam Arnold, Rory Scannell, Shane Daly; JJ Hanrahan, Craig Casey; James Cronin, Niall Scannell (capt), John Ryan, Fineen Wycherley, Darren O’Shea, Arno Botha, Chris Cloete, Jack O’Sullivan.
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Jeremy Loughman, Stephen Archer, Gavin Coombes, Tommy O’Donnell, Neil Cronin, Dan Goggin, Darren Sweetnam.