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Coombes And Haley The Only Players Retained In Munster Team

Coombes And Haley The Only Players Retained In Munster Team

Fineen Wycherley is pictured congratulating his younger brother Josh during Munster's Heineken Champions Cup pool win away to Clermont Auvergne last month ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Munster will field an almost entirely-changed team when they tackle Benetton Rugby in Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 encounter at Stadio di Monigo (kick-off 6pm local time/5pm Irish time).

Gavin Coombes and Mike Haley are the only players to keep their starting places following last week’s derby loss to Leinster, with 13 changes to the starting XV.

It is a real family affair with two sets of brothers and a pair of cousins all starting for Johann van Graan’s men, who hold an 11-point lead at the top of Conference B.

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Academy prop Josh Wycherley and his older brother Fineen start together in red for the first time, with the Scannell brothers, Niall and Rory, and cousins Gavin and Liam Coombes also selected to start.

There are three Academy players in the squad as out-half Ben Healy and loosehead Josh Wycherley both start, and there is a spot on the bench for promising lock Thomas Ahern. 

Haley and Liam Coombes are joined by Darren Sweetnam in the back-three, while Healy and Nick McCarthy team up at half-back, and Rory Scannell and Dan Goggin will form the centre partnership.

The Hawaiian-born Roman Salanoa, who was previously in the Leinster Academy, comes in for his first PRO14 start, packing down at tighthead alongside Niall Scannell and Josh Wycherley.

Captain Billy Holland has the elder Wycherley for company at lock, and Gavin Coombes switches to number 8 to anchor a back row that also includes Jack O’Donoghue and Chris Cloete.

Replacement prop Jeremy Loughman is set for his first appearance since October after recovering from a shoulder injury. Short-term signing Paddy Patterson is in line to make his Munster debut as he provides the scrum-half cover.

Determined for the province to quickly get back to winning ways, Munster forwards coach Graham Rowntree said: “Treviso are desperate to move the ball, are quite aggressive in contact and have many threats around the breakdown.

“So it’s a big, big challenge for us (this weekend), probably exactly what we need after last Saturday’s disappointing result against Leinster.

“We backed some youngsters (during the autumn window) didn’t we? Those youngsters have been put in the squad in terms of standards and putting pressure in the older guys.

“The Test players have left us again so we will be looking again to those young guys and the same performances. They have been fantastic across this season.

“We have backed them, they have delivered, and that has shown a lot of the other younger players that if you perform you will get your chance. Like I have said before, that then puts pressure on the senior players as well, so it is a good dynamic.”

MUNSTER (v Benetton Rugby): Mike Haley; Liam Coombes, Dan Goggin, Rory Scannell, Darren Sweetnam; Ben Healy, Nick McCarthy; Josh Wycherley, Niall Scannell, Roman Salanoa, Fineen Wycherley, Billy Holland (capt), Jack O’Donoghue, Chris Cloete, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Jeremy Loughman, Stephen Archer, Thomas Ahern, Tommy O’Donnell, Paddy Patterson, JJ Hanrahan, Damian de Allende.