The Munster team has been announced for Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final against title holders Toulouse at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 3pm).
Ticket sales for the game passed the 37,500 mark as of this afternoon. Tickets will be available to purchase online up to kick-off here, and also from the Ticketmaster van at the top of Lansdowne Road here, on Saturday from 12.30pm (card payments only).
Stephen Archer is preferred to John Ryan at tighthead prop and John Hodnett, who is out with a knee injury, is replaced at openside flanker by Alex Kendellen who makes his first Champions Cup start.
They are the only two changes to the Munster side that secured a 26-10 victory over Exeter Chiefs last month. It will be Archer’s 247th Munster appearance, moving him level with Billy Holland as joint-second on the province’s all-time caps list.
The in-form Mike Haley, Munster’s player-of-the-match against Cardiff last week, anchors the back-three with vastly-experienced duo Keith Earls and Simon Zebo either side of him.
The strong-carrying pair of Chris Farrell and Damian de Allende join forces again in midfield, while Joey Carbery, who starred with 21 points against Exeter, and Conor Murray will be at the helm at half-back.
22-year-old loosehead Josh Wycherley will pack down with Niall Scannell and Archer in the front row, supported by Jean Kleyn and Josh’s older brother Fineen (24) from the engine room.
Captain Peter O’Mahony, Greencore Munster Rugby Academy youngster Kendellen (21) and Jack O’Donoghue are the loose forwards as Munster look to avenge last season’s 40-33 round of 16 defeat to Toulouse.
Flanker Jack Daly is among the replacements and in line to make his European debut on his sixth Munster appearance. A native of Currans in Kerry, Daly came up through the ranks at Castleisland RFC and plays his Energia All-Ireland League rugby with Garryowen.
Andrew Conway, who returned to training this week after a knee injury, misses out on the matchday 23, while the province’s injury list includes Hodnett, Gavin Coombes (ankle), Chris Cloete (head), Dave Kilcoyne (neck), Tadhg Beirne (thigh) and RG Snyman (knee).
“We had big moments last year but when you have no crowd (due to the Covid-19 restrictions) it feels like the hard works goes unnoticed,” admitted Springbok star de Allende.
“Last year was frustrating against Toulouse – not that we left anything out there, just the mistakes that we made. Hopefully we’ve learned from that. The crowd can keep you up for much longer and Exeter (in the last round) was like that.
“I think the atmosphere at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday is going to be incredible, but I think the energy on the field…I can’t explain it but I get that feeling of it’s going to be a cracker of a game on Saturday afternoon.”
MUNSTER (v Toulouse): Mike Haley; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Simon Zebo; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Josh Wycherley, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Fineen Wycherley, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Alex Kendellen, Jack O’Donoghue.
Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Jeremy Loughman, John Ryan, Jason Jenkins, Thomas Ahern, Craig Casey, Ben Healy, Jack Daly.