Munster head coach Johann van Graan has included three Greencore Munster Academy players in the squad for Saturday’s GUINNESS PRO14 encounter with the Scarlets at Thomond Park (kick-off 5pm). Click here to buy your match ticket(s).
Academy back rower Jack O’Sullivan (21) keeps his place at number 8 and is set to make his seventh senior appearance, with fellow youngsters Diarmuid Barron and John Hodnett listed among the replacements.
There are five changes to the team that secured a 28-0 bonus point win away to Zebre last week. Billy Holland returns as captain with Chris Farrell back from Ireland duty, and there are also starts for Dan Goggin, Kevin O’Byrne and Stephen Archer.
Calvin Nash and Darren Sweetnam, two of Munster’s four try scorers in Milan, complete the back-three with Mike Haley, while Farrell and Goggin pair up in midfield, and JJ Hanrahan and Craig Casey continue their half-back partnership.
O’Bryne and Archer pack down with James Cronin in the front row, Holland has Fineen Wycherley as his second row partner, and the back row trio of O’Sullivan and South African duo Arno Botha and Chris Cloete is unchanged.
Speaking ahead of the crucial round 13 fixture, in-form out-half Hanrahan said: “It is a big game, that’s for sure. They are three points behind us (in the Conference standings), Edinburgh are three points ahead of us. In terms of the table, it’s a big one. We know that.
“We’ve spoken about it as a group and what it means to our season. We are under no illusions as to what we need to get done, but you have to go back to the fact that you cannot focus too much on outcomes, you’ve got to focus on performance.
“If we can take more of our second half performance against Zebre into the start of the game and for 80 minutes in this game – and we will need to play for 80 minutes because the Scarlets are a high quality side – then we should be on the right side of victory, hopefully.”
Meanwhile, Niall Scannell, who captained Munster for the first time last week, suffered a low grade knee injury against Zebre that has ruled him out of the Scarlets game. The injury is expected to be a short-term one.
Shane Daly underwent a scan earlier this week that showed a low grade groin strain. The injury prevented him from training this week but he will be a travelling reserve for Saturday’s match in Limerick.
Jack O’Donoghue aggravated an existing neck issue at the end of last week that had not settled sufficiently to allow him train fully this week. He was not considered for selection.
MUNSTER (v Scarlets): Mike Haley; Calvin Nash, Chris Farrell, Dan Goggin, Darren Sweetnam; JJ Hanrahan, Craig Casey; James Cronin, Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer, Fineen Wycherley, Billy Holland (capt), Arno Botha, Chris Cloete, Jack O’Sullivan.
Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Jeremy Loughman, John Ryan, Gavin Coombes, John Hodnett, Nick McCarthy, Rory Scannell, Tommy O’Donnell.