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O’Donoghue To Lead Munster Against Ospreys

O’Donoghue To Lead Munster Against Ospreys

Waterford native Jack O'Donoghue is pictured in action for Munster at Thomond Park last month ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Following last week’s postponement, Munster return to Guinness PRO14 action against the Ospreys at Thomond Park on Sunday (kick-off 2.45pm).

There are five changes to the side that defeated the Dragons 28-16 at the start of the month. Johann van Graan’s men were idle in round 5 due to the Covid-19-enforced postponement of their trip to Treviso.

Props James Cronin and Stephen Archer start this week, joining the in-form Kevin O’Byrne in the front row.

Fineen Wycherley takes his place alongside Jean Kleyn in the engine room, while Tommy O’Donnell comes in at openside in a back row that also features Jack O’Donoghue and Gavin Coombes, the scorer of two tries against Cardiff Blues recently.

Former Ireland Under-20 captain O’Donoghue will lead the province on his fifth successive start. He was the player-of-the-match in their most recent Limerick outing against Cardiff.

The only personnel change to the back-line sees Mike Haley slot back in at full-back.  With Haley’s return, Matt Gallagher switches to the left wing with Darren Sweetnam covering the opposite flank.

JJ Hanrahan and Craig Casey continue together at half-back, and Springbok Damian de Allende gets his third start of the season in the number 12 jersey, alongside Rory Scannell.

Returning from Ireland camp is John Ryan who is named among the replacements, and Dan Goggin is also in line to feature following his recovery from a shoulder injury.

Head coach van Graan commented: “Ospreys are under a new coach in Toby (Booth), an experienced coach. I thought they played pretty well against Leinster.

“They started very well, went 7-0 up and (then) Leinster scored some very good tries, the second half was a one-score game.

“For us, the fruit of the last few years are paying off. As has been well documented, we brought our Academy to train with our senior team last year during the Rugby World Cup and they have continued to train with us.

“A lot of younger players are getting opportunities and they are certainly using the opportunities right across the park, from 1 to 15.

“There have been some good team performances, a long way away from perfect but we would take that start to the season. We are looking to improve our attack right across the board.

“Some of our defence has been very good but we have leaked one or two tries from set pieces, against Cardiff a few games ago.

“We are changing the team week on week, we are giving guys opportunities and some guys will get opportunities over the next few weeks.”

Ahead of kick-off, both teams will line up for a minute’s silence to mark the recent passing of popular Munster Rugby Development Officer John O’Neill, who lined out for Waterpark, Highfield, Munster and Ireland ‘A’ during his playing days.

MUNSTER (v Ospreys): Mike Haley; Darren Sweetnam, Rory Scannell, Damian de Allende, Matt Gallagher; JJ Hanrahan, Craig Casey; James Cronin, Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Fineen Wycherley, Jack O’Donoghue (capt), Tommy O’Donnell, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Josh Wycherley, John Ryan, Billy Holland, Jack O’Sullivan, Nick McCarthy, Ben Healy, Dan Goggin.