Peter O’Mahony will return from injury to captain Munster in their Rainbow Cup opener against Leinster tomorrow. Good news and yet, as is so often the case lately, it is outdone by their rivals up the road in Dublin.
Leo Cullen has named a side that reflects the more important Champions Cup semi-final trip to La Rochelle next week but Leinster have still been boosted by the return of Garry Ringrose, Caelan Doris and James Ryan – who starts off the bench - from injury.
Ringrose has been absent with an ankle problem while the other two have been stood down in recent weeks due to concussion issues and they come into a squad that is a mix and match of some top-line players and younger faces.
Jordan Larmour, Dave Kearney and James Lowe make for a dangerous back three while Rory O’Loughlin joins Ringrose in the midfield. Harry Byrne takes the reins at ten with Jonathan Sexton unavailable due to a head injury and Ross Byrne wrapped in cotton wool.
The older of the Byrnes won’t even be risked off the bench.
The same safety-first approach sees Luke McGrath miss out. With Jamison Gibson-Park also absent though injury lately, it will fall to Hugh O’Sullivan to run the show at nine and behind a pretty decent if mostly second-choice pack.
Munster return to the RDS for the first time since their limp effort in the PRO14 final late last month and Johann van Graan has made seven changes in all to the XV that went down to Toulouse in what was their last outing.
It’s an impressive lineup and one much closer to full strength than their hosts with Shane Daly and Keith Earls starting either side of Mike Haley in the back three and the impressive tandem of Chris Farrell and Damian De Allende again holding the centre.
Joey Carbery and Conor Murray partner up at ten and nine respectively while CJ Stander is at No.8 as his career enters the final straight and Tadhg Beirne is fit enough to start despite the rib injury suffered against Toulouse.
Kick-off is at 7.35pm tomorrow.
J Larmour; D Kearney, G Ringrose, R O’Loughlin, J Lowe; H Byrne, H O’Sullivan; E Byrne, D Sheehan, A Porter; R Molony, R Baird; J Murphy, S Penny, C Doris.
S Cronin, P Dooley, M Bent, J Ryan, S Fardy, C Foley, C Frawley, T O’Brien.
: M Haley; K Earls, C Farrell, D de Allende, S Daly; J Carbery, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, S Archer; J Kleyn, T Beirne; P O’Mahony (C), J O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.
: D Barron, J Loughman, K Knox, F Wycherley, G Coombes, C Casey, B Healy, C Nash.