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Munster’s Coombes And Wycherley Set For Champions Cup Debuts

Munster’s Coombes And Wycherley Set For Champions Cup Debuts

Gavin Coombes is pictured offloading to Craig Casey during Munster's recent Guinness PRO14 victory away to Glasgow Warriors ©INPHO/Craig Watson

Munster begin their Heineken Champions Cup Pool B campaign against Harlequins at Thomond Park on Sunday (kick-off 5.30pm).

Gavin Coombes and Damian de Allende start on their European debuts with Academy prop Josh Wycherley in line to make his Champions Cup bow off the bench.

Fresh from his brace for Ireland against Scotland, Keith Earls will make his first Munster appearance of the season. Full-back Mike Haley and Andrew Conway complete the back-three.

Springbok de Allende and Chris Farrell make up an all-international centre pairing, while JJ Hanrahan is joined at half-back by returning Ireland star Conor Murray.

Tadhg Beirne is also back from national camp, linking up in the second row with Jean Kleyn. James Cronin, hooker Kevin O’Byrne and Stephen Archer form the first line of the province’s scrum.

Skibbereen-born powerhouse Coombes, who turns 23 today, is retained in a back row bolstered by captain Peter O’Mahony and fellow Ireland regular CJ Stander.

There are two Greencore Munster Rugby Academy players among the replacements as the aforementioned Josh Wycherley is joined in the matchday 23 by Ben Healy, who made his European debut last January.

After finalising preparations for this weekend’s eagerly-awaited encounter, head coach Johann van Graan said: “This is going to be a real 23-man effort at Thomond Park on Sunday.

“The players are driving each other so much and they were all tight calls between who starts, who the impact players are, and who plays for Munster ‘A’ against Ulster ‘A’ on Saturday.

“Gavin Coombes makes his European debut in the back row and we look forward to seeing him perform. Josh Wycherley from the Academy could make his Champions Cup debut too, so it will be a special day for them.

“Harlequins are a quality outfit across the board and we’re really looking forward to the challenge on Sunday.”

MUNSTER (v Harlequins): Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Keith Earls; JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne, Gavin Coombes, Peter O’Mahony (capt), CJ Stander.

Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Josh Wycherley, John Ryan, Fineen Wycherley, Jack O’Donoghue, Craig Casey, Ben Healy, Rory Scannell.