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Daly And French Set To Make Munster Debuts

Daly And French Set To Make Munster Debuts

21-year-old back Sean French is pictured in action for Munster during the recent IRFU Academy 7s tournament in Dublin ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

There are eight changes to the Munster team to play Zebre in Monday’s Guinness PRO14 match at Thomond Park (kick-off 8.15pm).

For the round 8 fixture, head coach Johann van Graan has included five Academy players – prop Josh Wycherley, on his second start, and replacements Thomas Ahern, Jack Daly, Ben Healy and Sean French.

Both Daly and French will make their senior debuts if called upon, while there is a welcome return for Chris Cloete at openside flanker following a neck injury.

Jack O’Donoghue and Gavin Coombes complete the province’s back row, with the latter making his fifth successive start after back-to-back Guinness player-of-the-match performances.

Fineen Wycherley reverts to the second row alongside captain Billy Holland, and his younger brother Josh has Rhys Marshall and Stephen Archer for company in the front row.

The half-back pairing switches up this week with JJ Hanrahan reclaiming the number 10 jersey and scrum half Nick McCarthy making his first start of the season.

Dan Goggin joins Springbok Damian de Allende in the centre, Darren Sweetnam gets the nod on the left wing, and Calvin Nash continuing on the opposite flank with Matt Gallagher moving to full-back.

Gallagher, who bagged two tries from full-back against the Dragons recently, said: “My preference would probably be full-back, but I made my debut here on the wing, I made my debut at Saracens on the wing, but whatever is best for the team I will step up and play there.

“It’s always a little bit different running out at the empty stadium. The boys on the sideline have been doing their best job to try and get some sort of atmosphere there but it is nothing compared to a packed Thomond Park.

“Hopefully in the near future we will be able to get some fans back in. We know how passionate Munster is and the fans of Munster are, so we can’t wait for them to come back and show them the performances we can put in for them.

“It has been tough enough (moving to Limerick in lockdown) but I have been to Limerick a few times before. My granny lives here. The boys have been so welcoming, helping me out to settle in.”

In a further boost for the Conference B leaders, prop Liam O’Connor returns from a calf injury to take his place on the bench for his first inclusion since last December.

MUNSTER (v Zebre): Matt Gallagher; Calvin Nash, Dan Goggin, Damian de Allende, Darren Sweetnam; JJ Hanrahan, Nick McCarthy; Josh Wycherley, Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer, Fineen Wycherley, Billy Holland (capt), Jack O’Donoghue, Chris Cloete, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Liam O’Connor, Keynan Knox, Thomas Ahern, Jack Daly, Craig Casey, Ben Healy, Sean French.