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O’Mahony And Earls Passed Fit For Munster’s Clash With Leinster

O’Mahony And Earls Passed Fit For Munster’s Clash With Leinster

Craig Casey, captain Peter O'Mahony, Keith Earls and Jean Kleyn will start for Munster against provincial rivals Leinster ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

The Munster team have received some timely fitness boosts ahead of Saturday’s BKT United Rugby Championship semi-final showdown with Leinster at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 5.30pm).

There are four personnel changes and two positional switches to the team that won away to Glasgow Warriors last week, with captain Peter O’Mahony, Keith Earls and Diarmuid Barron all fit to start.

Veteran winger Earls has recovered from a groin injury and is rewarded with his first start since making his 200th Munster appearance against the Cell C Sharks three weeks ago.

O’Mahony (elbow) and Barron (shoulder) also trained successfully this week, while Craig Casey, Ben Healy and John Hodnett also come into the starting XV.

Asked how Munster can upset the odds this weekend, their forwards coach Andi Kyriacou commented: “The same way we’ve beaten all the other teams we’ve played away these past few weeks – it’s physicality, it’s moving fast and concentrating on us.

“If we sit back and let them play, they’re unbelievably good. We have to make sure our minds are on us and our performance, not what Leinster can bring because we have seen a number of times that if you sit back and let them play, they don’t need an invitation, they’ll go and do it.

“Look, we don’t know what Leo (Cullen) and the lads are going to put out. We’ve got no idea. Obviously they’ve got a final the following week that they’ll have one eye on.

“But we’ve seen historically it doesn’t matter who they put out, they’re all going to perform. Both teams will be striving for their best performance possible to get into a final. We’ll just see which way the chips fall.”

With the trip to Scotstoun proving costly in terms of injuries, Tadhg Beirne moves to the second row to cover the absence of RG Snyman, Casey replaces Conor Murray at scrum half, and Malakai Fekitoa’s place at inside centre is taken by Jack Crowley.

Earls joins Mike Haley and Shane Daly in the back-three, Tipperary man Healy combines with Casey at half-back, and Crowley and Antoine Frisch, who both toured with Emerging Ireland earlier in the season, make up the midfield pairing.

Beirne and Jean Kleyn pack down behind an unchanged front row of Jeremy Loughman, Barron and Stephen Archer, as Graham Rowntree’s men look to continue an impressive run of results which has seen them lose just one of their last nine URC games.

O’Mahony, Hodnett and Gavin Coombes, the only Munster player in the URC Elite XV, complete the selected side. Jack O’Donoghue, Neil Cronin and Rory Scannell have been added to the squad as replacements.

Away from the build-up to the all-Irish semi-final, Munster have confirmed that scrum half Cronin has signed a contract extension until the end of January 2024.

Cronin has made 37 appearances since making his debut for the province as a Garryowen player against Leinster on St. Stephen’s Day in 2014.

The 30-year-old Limerick native signed his first contract with Munster in 2018 after continuing to impress with Garryowen in the All-Ireland League.

MUNSTER (v Leinster): Mike Haley; Keith Earls, Antoine Frisch, Jack Crowley, Shane Daly; Ben Healy, Craig Casey; Jeremy Loughman, Diarmuid Barron, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony (capt), John Hodnett, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Josh Wycherley, Roman Salanoa, Fineen Wycherley, Jack O’Donoghue, Neil Cronin, Rory Scannell, Alex Kendellen.