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Munster Make Wholesale Changes For Belfast Trip

Munster Make Wholesale Changes For Belfast Trip

Liam Coombes runs in a try for Munster 'A' during their recent interprovincial clash with Leinster 'A' at Thomond Park ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Munster head coach Johann van Graan has made a raft of changes for Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 showdown with provincial rivals Ulster at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 5.15pm).

Niall Scannell and Liam Coombes will make their first appearances of the season, while Academy out-half Ben Healy starts after recovering from the shoulder injury he sustained against Harlequins last month.

Among the replacements, there is a welcome return for Ireland prop Dave Kilcoyne who is included in his first matchday squad since damaging his ankle against Leinster back in August.

Shane Daly, who is the only player to retain his starting position from the Clermont Auvergne game, switches to full-back for only his second appearance of the season. Joining him in the back-three are wingers Coombes and Calvin Nash.

Dan Goggin and Rory Scannell form the centre partnership, and a quick-fire service will be provided by Craig Casey, on his 20th Munster appearance, to Healy at half-back.

There is a new front row combination as Liam O’Connor, Niall Scannell and John Ryan start together for the first time, and behind them are the lock pairing of Fineen Wycherley and captain Billy Holland.

The loose forward positions are filled by Jack O’Donoghue, Chris Cloete and Jack O’Sullivan, who makes his fifth start for the province, while 20-year-old Academy out-half Jack Crowley is primed for his senior bow off the bench.

The unbeaten Munstermen hold a 12-point lead at the top of Conference B, but Ulster, who have won nine out of nine to set the pace in Conference A, are set to provide one of the stiffest tests of the campaign so far for van Graan’s charges.

Referring to Ulster’s first-half scrum struggles against Connacht last week, Ireland tighthead Ryan commented: “Everyone has those days. Ulster are going to definitely bounce back.

“I know they’ve a good scrum, they have the players there, so it’s an area they’re going to target this week and they won’t be any pushover because they got shoved around the place by Connacht.”

MUNSTER (v Ulster): Shane Daly; Calvin Nash, Dan Goggin, Rory Scannell, Liam Coombes; Ben Healy, Craig Casey; Liam O’Connor, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Fineen Wycherley, Billy Holland (capt), Jack O’Donoghue, Chris Cloete, Jack O’Sullivan.

Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Dave Kilcoyne, Roman Salanoa, Thomas Ahern, Tommy O’Donnell, Nick McCarthy, Jack Crowley, Darren Sweetnam.