Further evidence of the influence of West Cork rugby in the Munster team has come with the inclusion of Rosscarbery flanker John Hodnett for his first Guinness Pro 14 start — against South African side Southern Kings — at Musgrave Park this evening, kick-off 7. 35.
Hodnett, who established a big major reputation with a series of outstanding performances in Ireland’s Grand Slam in the Under 20 Six Nations Championship last year and as a regular with UCC in Division One of the All-Ireland League through the last couple of seasons, is a product of Clonakilty RFC, and will have another West Cork man, Fineen Wycherley, also doing battle up front against the South African visitors.
They will both benefit from having the invaluable experience of Billy Holland, captaining the side on his 226th appearance in the red shirt, at their side not to mention the all-international front-row of James Cronin, Niall Scannell and John Ryan.
Whereas JJ Hanrahan, Mike Haley, Dan Goggin and Chris Farrell (released back to the province by Irish coach Andy Farrell), are all included, admirers of Shane Daly and Calvin Nash will be pleased to see two such bright prospects given their head while Neil Cronin starts at number nine.
The Kings include 27 year-old Jerry Sexton, a younger brother of Ireland captain Johnny, in the second-row.
An Irish schools international during his school days at St Marys College, the 6 ft 5 inch, 19 stone giant has played with Auch in France, Exeter Chiefs and London Irish in England and Channell Islanders Jersey Reds before signing a three year contract with the South Africans prior to this season.
Van Graan is set to utilise the majority of his squad and spread game-time over this trio of fixtures.
Even though the Kings are propping up the Conference B Pro 14 table with only one win to their credit, Munster make no secret of their need to win this game, preferably with a bonus point, having fallen back to 3rd place, four points behind Edinburgh and one off Scarlets.
Coach Stephen Larkham stressed this week there was no question of Munster underestimating the visitors while the game also provides the ideal opportunity for the likes of Chris Farrell and Jack O’Donoghue to prove to the Irish management that they may have been premature in dropping them from the national squad earlier this week.
“I think there is a great opportunity for Chris with Gary Ringrose out”, said the Australian.
Making his full Munster debut at Musgrave Park appeals to a number of Munster players, not least John Hodnett who achieved such glory there twelve months ago with the Ireland under 20s. And for speedsters like winger Calvin Nash, the all-weather surface could hardly be more suitable.
Duncan and Duncan Rugby Podcast: Mike Sherry's dream career and injury nightmare. Hidden talent in the AIL
Allianz will finish its sponsorship of Saracens and the club’s stadium at the end of the season, the company has announced.
The German insurance group has sponsored Saracens since 2012 and, as well as holding naming rights to the Hendon-based stadium, was set to continue in a deal through until 2021.
MUNSTER: M Haley; C Nash, C Farrell, D Goggin, S Daly; JJ Hanrahan, N Cronin; J Cronin, N Scannell, J Ryan; F Wycherley, B Holland capt; J O’Donoghue, J Hodnett, A Botha. Replacements - K O’Byrne, J Loughman, K Knox, G Coombes, C Cloete, N McCarthy, B Healy, R Scannell.
SOUTHERN KINGS: A Loubser; C Hollis, S Sithole, E Cronje, E Ludick; D Catrakalis, S Ungerer; S Ferreira, J du Toit, R de Klerk, J Sexton, JC Astle capt, L Badiyana, B de Wee, R Lerm. Replacements: A Van Rooyen, X Vos, I Prinsloo, A Fortuin, T Bholi, L Dapula, J Alderman, C Winnaar.
Referee: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia).