Cullen, Mullins and Manning in for Munster

CHRISTIAN CULLEN, Mike Mullins and Jeremy Manning have all been included in a 23-strong Munster squad for the Celtic League game against Llanelli Scarlets tomorrow (5.30pm) at Stradey Park.

The side will be finalised today, but may include Tomas O’Leary at centre from the start, while both Cullen and Mullins seem sure to be given a run at some stage.

Munster coach Declan Kidney yesterday commended the professionalism of the players after coming together for the first time in seven weeks.

Kidney said: “This is a huge game for us in terms of qualification for next season’s Heineken Cup. Results against the Scarlets in recent years just point the enormity of the challenge we face in Stradey on Saturday.”

And it wasn’t lost on Kidney that Llanelli, despite being five places and 14 points behind, have three games in hand. “If they beat us, they have a huge chance to go on and win the competition. We need to keep on winning to keep our challenge up and keep the competition at bay,” he said.

Scarlets’ director of rugby Gareth Jenkins has hailed the fixture a must-win game, if his team are to have any ambition of winning the Celtic League.

However, with four of their internationals unavailable - Dwayne Peel, Mark Jones, Alix Popham and Lee Byrne all nursing injuries, Scarlets have been forced to make three changes to the starting 15 that secured their Powergen Cup final place with a win over Bath a fortnight ago.

However, there is a return to the 22 for both Scarlets loose-head props Phil John and Iestyn Thomas who have been sidelined with neck injuries for the majority of the season.

“With both Phil and Iestyn now fully recovered following major surgery, Phil returns at 1 to replace injured Craig Dunlea, while Iestyn takes his place on the bench at 16,” said Jenkins.

LLANELLI (v Munster): B. Davies; D. James; M. Watkins, R. King; T Selley; M. Hercus, C. Stuart-Smith; P. John; M. Rees, J. Davies; I. Afeaki; A. Jones, S. Easterby (c); G. Thomas, D. Jones.

Replacements: I. Thomas; C. Hawkins; V. Cooper, G. Quinnell, L. Davies; C. Thomas, D. Daniel.

MUNSTER (from): (Forwards). M Horan, J Hayes, F Pucciariello, D Fogarty, J Flannery, P O’Connell, D O’Callaghan, M O’Driscoll, T Hogan, S Keogh, D Wallace, J O’Sullivan, A Foley. (Backs): P Stringer, T O’Leary, R O’Gara, J Manning, T Halstead, M Mullins, I Dowling, J Kelly, C Cullen, S Payne.

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