Jump to main content


Stander, O’Donnell And Cronin Set For Thomond Farewell

Stander, O’Donnell And Cronin Set For Thomond Farewell

Tommy O'Donnell and CJ Stander will both run out at Thomond Park for the final time on Friday night ©INPHO/James Crombie

Munster resume their Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup campaign against Cardiff Blues at Thomond Park on Friday (kick-off 7.35pm).

There are seven changes to the team that lost to Connacht a fortnight ago, as Mike Haley, Rory Scannell, Joey Carbery, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer, Fineen Wycherley and Tommy O’Donnell all return to the starting XV.

Captain CJ Stander and O’Donnell, who are both retiring at the end of the season, and James Cronin, who is leaving the province for pastures new, will start on their final Munster appearances at fortress Thomond.

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

Haley is reunited with wingers Andrew Conway and Shane Daly in the back-three, while Springbok star Damian de Allende switches to outside centre to accommodate Rory Scannell’s inclusion at 12.

Carbery links up at half-back with Craig Casey – the first time the pair have started together at senior level – and Cronin and Archer pack down with Niall Scannell in the front row.

Pushing behind that trio will be Wycherley and Jean Kleyn, with stand-in skipper Stander and O’Donnell combining with Jack O’Donoghue in the loose forwards.

Reflecting on his 14-year career with his home province, the 186-times capped O’Donnell said: “I think it’s something special (playing for one team over your career). There are plenty of guys who have gone on and played for other clubs and had incredible careers.

“But having grown up watching Munster and played for them, it’s special. I had offers in different contract negotiations over the years to change clubs and ply my trade somewhere else.

“But I think there has always been a call to stay with Munster and to try and prove myself on my home field, and that I could mix it with Munster for as long as I did.”

“When you come through from the Youths system you look back now and see how raw you were compared to lads who are coming through from the Youths system now. Just the quality of coaching and quality of player coming through the system now is much better.

“So I look back on how raw I was – I thought I was good and then it’s not until you get into the professional set-up and you realise that there are continually ladders and places you have to hit.

“I’m very happy with how I did that and how I achieved them, notwithstanding a few injuries. I probably could have gone further but you have to take those injuries when they come and timing of injuries is huge for some players.

“Some players get the rub of the green and some don’t, but I’m happy that I kept plugging away, that I kept going throughout my career and got as far as I did.”

Gavin Coombes returns from illness and is named among the replacements, along with Academy out-half Jack Crowley who is fresh from making his Ireland Sevens debut.

Nick McCarthy, selected as the reserve scrum half this week, is standing by for his final Munster appearance at Thomond Park.

MUNSTER (v Cardiff Blues): Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Damian de Allende, Rory Scannell, Shane Daly; Joey Carbery, Craig Casey; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Fineen Wycherley; Jack O’Donoghue, Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander (capt).

Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Jeremy Loughman, Keynan Knox, Gavin Coombes, Peter O’Mahony, Nick McCarthy, Jack Crowley, Jack O’Sullivan.