Scrum-half issues further up the chain have impacted on Munster A head coach Peter Malone’s selection for the visit of Dragons A to Cork this afternoon for this Celtic Cup third round game (5:30pm).
Injuries to both Conor Murray and James Hart has seen Jack Stafford, the starting No. 9 in last Saturday’s 52-7 demolition of Ospreys Development, being promoted to the senior bench for the PRO14 trip to Cardiff Blues with Malone calling on UCC’s John Poland to start at Musgrave Park with Newcastle West’s school-age half-back Charlie O’Doherty as back-up.
Munster are seeking a third win in three games in this new development competition as they aim to keep the pressure on Leinster, a point ahead at the top of the Irish pool. The table toppers at the end of the six-game schedule will face the Welsh pool winners in the final and Dragons, 53-38 victors over Connacht Eagles last weekend, are in the thick of a tight group with all four regions recording a win and a loss in the first two rounds.
In addition to Stafford, Munster A have also lost last week’s captain and fly-half Bill Johnston, hooker Diarmuid Barron and tighthead prop Brian Scott to the PRO14 squad, with Malone picking a 23-man squad featuring nine academy players and seven club representatives.
Fineen Wycherley captains the side from the second row in an unchanged back five of the Munster A pack with Ciaran Parker replacing Scott and Billy Scannell getting his first start at hooker.
Ben Healy makes his first Munster A start at fly-half to join Poland in the half-backs while wing Alex Wootton forms an all-senior back three with Calvin Nash and full-back Stephen Fitzgerald.
The replacements bench includes five potential Munster A debutants in academy hooker Eoghan Clarke, development prop Cronan Gleeson, Young Munster lock Paddy Kelly, O’Doherty, and Shannon fly-half Jake Flannery.
S Fitzgerald; A Wootton, M More, A McHenry, C Nash; B Healy, J Poland; J Loughman, B Scannell, C Parker; F Wycherley - captain, S O’Connor; J Daly, J Hodnett, G Coombes.
E Clarke, C Gleeson, K Knox, P Kelly, D O’Grady, C O’Doherty, J Flannery, S French.
C Penny; W Talbot-Davies, C Wellington, J Benjamin, D Smith; J Botica, D Buckland; G Ellis, R Lawrence, C Coleman; J Davies, H Taylor; J Thomas, L Greggains - captain, T Basham.
Z Hewlett, S Evans, L Yendle, M Williams, B Fry, R Davies, T Hoppe, G Gasson.