Howlett on course for Munster opener

Doug Howlett could be set for his first outing in a Munster jersey in more than eight months having been named in a 32-man squad for the province’s opening pre-season friendly.

The former All Black winger injured an Achilles tendon in a RaboDirect Pro12 defeat at Ospreys on December 3 but after a lengthy rehabilitation process will join the Munster travelling party for a training camp in France that will conclude with a game against La Rochelle on August 10.

Howlett, 33, is one of 15 backs named in new head coach Rob Penney’s squad along with 17 forwards.

New signings Sean Dougall, James Downey and Casey Laulala are also included while there will be a clutch of newly-added development players on the trip including Christy Condon, Barry O’Mahony and academy graduates JJ Hanrahan and Luke O’Dea.

Current academy players Duncan Casey, Cathal O’Flaherty and Johne Holland will also travel while Young Munster hooker Ger Slattery provides cover for the rehabilitating Damien Varley and Sean Henry.

Also among the players left behind due to injury will be full-back Felix Jones (shoulder), scrum-half Cathal Sheridan (knee) and forwards Alan Cotter (calf tear), Dave Foley (shoulder), Ian Nagle (shoulder), Dave O’Callaghan (knee) and Niall Ronan (knee).

Munster’s Irish international contingent also sit out the training camp ahead of Musgrave Park friendlies against London Irish and Bristol later this month. Penney’s first competitive game in charge will be Munster’s RaboDirect opener on September 1 against Edinburgh at Murrayfield.

MUNSTER (squad to play La Rochelle) — Forwards: D Kilcoyne, W du Preez, M Horan, S Archer, J Ryan, C Condon, D Casey, G Slattery, P Donnellan, B Hayes, C O’Flaherty, B Holland, P Butler, T O’Donnell, J Coughlan, B O’Mahony, S Dougall

Backs: D Williams, P Stringer, S Deasy, I Keatley JJ Hanrahan, J Holland, C Laulala, D Barnes, J Downey, I Dineen, D Hurley, D Howlett, R O’Mahony, L O’Dea, S Scanlon.

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