Ireland U20 out-half Ben Healy will make his Munster senior debut tomorrow night as Johann van Graan opts for wholesale changes for the PRO14 visit of Edinburgh to Cork.
An injury to Joey Carbery, coupled with recent knocks for Tyler Bleyendaal and JJ Hanrahan, who is named on the bench, have opened the door for Healy to be rewarded with his first start. The Tipperary youngster won an U20 Grand Slam last spring, having captained Glenstal to their first-ever Munster Schools Senior Cup in 2018.
He is one of 14 changes to the team that drew with Racing in the Champions Cup, with Jack O’Donoghue the only player retained as he captains the side.
It will also be a proud night for Stephen Archer, who becomes the 11th player to reach 200 appearances for Munster. He starts in the front-row alongside Rhys Marshall and Liam O’Connor, who gets the nod at loosehead prop with Dave Kilcoyne (calf) and Jeremy Loughman (ankle) unavailable.
James Cronin is named on the bench and could be in line to start against Saracens next weekend should Loughman’s scan rule him out.
They will face a tough task against Edinburgh at Musgrave Park, who have made only two changes, and strong ones at that, to their side that drew 16-all against Bordeaux Bègles in the Challenge Cup. Scotland internationals Stuart McInally and Hamish Watson return to make their first club starts of the season following injuries.
“It’s great to have Hamish and Stuart back representing Edinburgh Rugby. They are both special players who are match-winners in their own right. It's a big boost for the club to have them once again available for selection,” said head coach Richard Cockerill.
“We are looking for a reaction after dropping points at home against Bordeaux last weekend and the squad will be hungry to put in a quality performance against a very tough opposition in Munster.
“We are certainly under no illusions. Munster are the Conference B leaders who have a great home record. However, we’ve selected a very experienced side that travels to Cork with plenty of confidence.”
Munster forwards coach Graham Rowntree packed down alongside Cockerill in the Leicester front-row for more than a decade, and even received his first break in coaching from the Edinburgh chief.
“He's a good mate of mine. Cockers is a great coach. I played with him, then I worked for him when I first finished playing at Leicester as a player-coach, basically coaching the Academy, and he was my boss.
“He understands the game very well. He's got that team motivated, they're going to be a handful.
“We're doing a lot of analysis on them, they have a plan and they stick to it, and they are physical as well. They're already talking about what a big game this is on the road for them, but it's a big game for us as well, another home game. I'm looking forward to seeing him, I think!
“We'd a right ding-dong with them last year in Europe, and they're going well. I know his [Cockerill's] psyche and what he'll be thinking and what he'll be challenging his lads to do coming down Friday night. So we've got a proper game on our hands in Cork and that's what we're planning for.”
Amid a hectic 11-week run featuring six Champions Cup games and four interprovincial ties, Rowntree says he isn’t expecting a drop in standards for this PRO14 encounter.
“We're certainly not seeing that in training. Intensity? We just had a cracking session now. It's not been perfect but you don't always want it perfect in the week.
“No, I don't think we're anticipating any troughs. The lads have trained well and we've got a depth of squad now that we're picking a team to win this game.”
S Daly; C Nash, S Arnold, D Goggin, A Wootton; B Healy, N McCarthy; L O’Connor, R Marshall, S Archer; F Wycherley, D O’Shea; J O’Donoghue (c), T O’Donnell, A Botha.
K O’Byrne, J Cronin, K Knox, J Holloway, C Oliver, N Cronin, JJ Hanrahan, R Scannell.
B Kinghorn; E Sau, M Bennett, M Scott, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, H Pyrgos (c); P Schoeman, S McInally, P Ceccarelli; B Toolis, G Gilchrist; M Bradbury, H Watson, V Mata.
M Willemse, R Sutherland, S Berghan, L Carmichael, A Miller, C Shiel, S Hickey, G Taylor.