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Haley Hits The Century Mark For Munster

Haley Hits The Century Mark For Munster

Mike Haley produced a try-scoring player-of-the-match performance in Munster's most recent BKT URC game against Zebre Parma in Cork ©INPHO/Ben Brady

Munster head coach Graham Rowntree has made three personnel changes for Friday’s BKT United Rugby Championship match against the Ospreys at Swansea.com Stadium (kick-off 7.35pm).

John Hodnett returns from a finger injury to start in the back row, while Rory Scannell and Joey Carbery are added to a back-line that features Mike Haley at full-back, where he will make his 100th Munster appearance and, impressively, his 100th start in the number 15 jersey.

Graham Rowntree’s men have climbed back up to sixth position in the BKT URC table, following back-to-back bonus point wins over the Scarlets and Zebre Parma. However, the Ospreys, in 10th place, are still only four points behind them.

“These are a sticky outfit,” Rowntree said of the Ospreys. “Immensely impressed by their coach Toby Booth. I’ve known him for a long time. He’s brought that squad together, and they’ve not have an easy year.

“Remember a year ago with the contract negotiations and there was a near strike, wasn’t there, during the Six Nations in 2023. He’s really brought that squad together. They’re playing a good brand of rugby, and they’re just tough, they’re tough to play against.

“Got a good set-piece, a good maul, so discipline and penalty access will be top of the list not to do again this week. I’m a big fan of them, good breakdown threat, kick the ball a bit, apply pressure through their kicking game.

“We’re going to have to be good on Friday night. I’ve been building this game up for a long time. In this block we’re without certain players. It’s a huge game for us.”

Cork youngster Alex Kendellen continues as the province’s captain, alongside Hodnett and Gavin Coombes in the loose forwards. The fit-again Jack O’Donoghue is back and set for some involvement as a replacement.

Scannell rejoins Antoine Frisch in midfield, Haley has Sean O’Brien and Shane Daly for company again in the back-three, and Craig Casey, fresh from Ireland’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations title success, pairs up with Carbery at half-back.

Tighthead prop John Ryan, who has signed a one-year contract extension with the province, forms an unchanged tight five along with Josh Wycherley, Niall Scannell, Tom Ahern, and Springbok lock RG Snyman.

The defending champions have four Academy players on bench duty – back rower Ruadhan Quinn, and backs Ethan Coughlan, Tony Butler, and Shay McCarthy – and Eoghan Clarke, Jeremy Loughman, and Stephen Archer complete the matchday 23.

Munster went unbeaten in February, including victories over the Crusaders and Harlequins, and Rowntree feels they have some timely momentum to take with them into this next block of fixtures.

“There’s been no drop-off, each of those games brought different challenges,” he explained. “We were able to look at a bit of the depth of our squad, some of the younger guys, and they were able to step up for us because they train with us every day.

“Crusaders game, really proud of our performance then against a real top notch team. We played quick, got our game going that night. And the same with ‘Quins, right from the get-go. In both of those games, we started really well.

“It has given us momentum, which we didn’t have this time last year. When we had the opportunity to play those two games against prestigious clubs, we jumped at it. It just gives us momentum, it tested our squad depth, and here we are with a huge game.”

On the injury front, recent Ireland debutant Oli Jager (knee) and Fineen Wycherley (knee) both saw specialists this week for possible surgery.

“They’ve gone for a surgical review. It doesn’t always necessarily mean they’ll go in there and do something, though in my experience they will. But we’ll see what the experts say,” added the Munster boss.

MUNSTER (v Ospreys): Mike Haley; Sean O’Brien, Antoine Frisch, Rory Scannell, Shane Daly; Joey Carbery, Craig Casey; Josh Wycherley, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Tom Ahern, RG Snyman, John Hodnett, Alex Kendellen (capt), Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Eoghan Clarke, Jeremy Loughman, Stephen Archer, Jack O’Donoghue, Ruadhan Quinn, Ethan Coughlan, Tony Butler, Shay McCarthy.