Six players who were involved in Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations win over England are part of the Munster squad for Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 final against Leinster.
As Munster chase their first PRO14 title since 2011 at the RDS (kick-off 5pm), their starting XV is boosted by the presence of Keith Earls, Conor Murray, Tadhg Beirne, captain Peter O’Mahony and the retiring CJ Stander.
Fellow international Dave Kilcoyne, who was withdrawn during the first half of the England game, has completed the return-to-play protocols to feature on the bench.
Fresh from scoring a memorable 34th international try, Earls rejoins Mike Haley and Andrew Conway in the back-three, with Chris Farrell and Damian de Allende pairing up in the centre.
The fit-again Joey Carbery links up at half-back with Murray for the first time this season. Carbery is looking to continue the form he produced against the Scarlets a fortnight ago.
Along with Haley and Carbery, the other four changes to the Munster side that lost 13-3 to Leinster in last season’s PRO14 semi-final are across the pack.
James Cronin and John Ryan pack down with hooker Niall Scannell in the front row, while Beirne returns from international duty to reunite with Jean Kleyn at lock.
Skibbereen youngster Gavin Coombes, who has scored eight tries in this season’s PRO14, earns his place at blindside flanker, with O’Mahony and Stander back in red to complete a strong back row.
Head coach Johann van Graan commented: “We said we need to get better in all areas, that’s what you look for in a season, and I believe we have. Now it’s about producing on a day that matters most, that’s in a final.
“We’re coming up against possibly the best team in Europe, certainly in the PRO14 over the last few seasons, and they’re playing at their home ground. We’re under no illusions we’ll have to be at our best to beat them.
“It’s a great challenge in front of us, we believe we’ve improved through the season and that will be put to the test on Saturday afternoon.
“Finals are strange things. It’s about the team that handles the pressure the most. So we’ll go in with our basic plan and execute that as well as we can and then adapt on the day, whether that’s to the opponents, the weather, the referee or the scoreboard.
“We’re going to embrace and enjoy it – it’s the first time in four years that Munster have been in a final so really looking forward to it.”
This is the first Leinster-Munster final meeting in 10 years. The Munstermen secured the Championship crown back in 2011 thanks to a 19-9 victory at Thomond Park.
MUNSTER (v Leinster): Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne, Gavin Coombes, Peter O’Mahony (capt), CJ Stander.
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Dave Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Jack O’Donoghue, Craig Casey, JJ Hanrahan, Rory Scannell.