Munster set to phase the big guns back into action

MUNSTER will crank up their preparations for the new season with the introduction of several senior players for the friendly with Gloucester at Musgrave Park tomorrow (7pm).

Former Leicester player Johne Murphy will make his Munster debut at some stage of the game but the emphasis will also be on the participation of Doug Howlett, Peter Stringer, Mick O’Driscoll, Niall Ronan, Tony Buckley, Damien Varley and Alan Quinlan.

Coach Tony McGahan is looking forward to the challenge against another of Munster’s most serious Heineken Cup challengers over the years, and he will most probably call on all of his 27-strong squad during the 80 minutes. All substitutes can be used in friendly matches, provided both teams agree on the number prior to the game.

Meanwhile, Leinster have selected Fergus McFadden in midfield alongside Eoin O’Malley for the difficult trip to play Leicester at Welford Road. The hosts will choose from a full squad while the Irish team still find themselves working around the squad system forced on them by national requirements.

With Stan Wright and Mike Ross both ruled out through injury, Leinster have called in Ballymena tight-head prop Simon Shawe to plug the gap temporarily. Shawe starts alongside Heinke van der Merwe and Richardt Strauss.

Nathan Hines has made it back from injury to make a start and he plays alongside Devin Toner, with skipper Sean O’Brien forming a new back row alongside Dominic Ryan and Stephen Keogh. Isaac Boss will partner Ian McKinley at half-back.

Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has named his side for Ulster’s final pre-season friendly match against Leeds at Ravenhill tonight (7.30pm) and is boosted by the return to action of Rory Best and Stephen Ferris, who are each allowed to play 40 minutes under IRFU guidelines.

The side shows six changes of personnel and one positional change from the side which was defeated by Harlequins at The Stoop last Saturday.

Among the backs, Adam D’Arcy, a rugby league player from Manly in Australia currently on trial with Ulster, is named at fullback while Tommy Seymour will start on the wing.

Centre Darren Cave and Ian Whitten start their third consecutive game while half-backs Niall O’Connor and Ian Porter and U20 winger Craig Gilroy retain their places from the Harlequins match.

Up front, Rory Best’s inclusion at hooker sees Nigel Brady drop to the bench and the Irish international assumes the captaincy.

Tim Barker comes into the second row for Ryan Caldwell while Pedrie Wannenburg and Willie Faloon complete the back row alongside Ferris.

MUNSTER (squad vs Gloucester): I Dineen, S Zebo, S Deasy, D Barnes, F Jones, D Howlett, J Murphy, S Tuitupou, I Dowling, P Warwick, P Stringer, D Williams, B Holland, R O’Mahony, N Ronan, M O’Driscoll, S Archer, Dave Ryan, D Fogarty, D Leamy, T O’Donnell, A Quinlan, Donncha Ryan, I Nagle, T Buckley, D Varley, W du Preez.

LEINSTER (vs Leicester): L Fitzgerald; D Kearney, E O’Malley, F McFadden, N Morris; I McKinley, I Boss; H van der Merwe, R Strauss, S Shawe; N Hines, D Toner; D Ryan, S Keogh, S O’Brien (capt).

Replacements: J Harris-Wright, J McGrath, S Maguire, E O’Donoghue, P Ryan, P O’Donohoe, I Nacewa, M Keating, M Galarza, E Sheriff, I Madigan, E Sheridan.

ULSTER (vs Leeds): A D’Arcy; C Gilroy, D Cave, I Whitten, T Seymour, N O’Connor, I Porter: (1-8) B Young, R Best (Captain), D Fitzpatrick, J Muller, T Barker, S Ferris, W Faloon, P Wannenburg.

Replacements: N Brady, Paddy McAllister, A Macklin, R Caldwell, TJ Anderson, R Diack, M Heaney, I Humphreys, J Shiels, D McIlwaine.

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