Johaan van Graan’s determination to spread the load in the Rainbow Cup has only increased with the Munster coach making nine changes to the side that will face Connacht at Thomond Park tomorrow evening.
This follows on from the eight changes he okayed for last week’s comfortable defeat of Ulster and it sees Matt Gallagher, Damian de Allende, Ben Healy, Craig Casey, James Cronin, Rhys Marshall, Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland and CJ Stander all come into the line-up.
Gallagher, whose first season since joining from Saracens has been waylaid by injury, will make his first start since injuring his shoulder against Zebre in November and is named at full-back having made his return to action off the bench in March.
Wingers Andrew Conway and Shane Daly are unchanged with de Allende joining Dan Goggin in the centres. Academy out-half Ben Healy starts for his 17th appearance of the season with Casey at scrum-half.
Cronin, Marshall and John Ryan start in the front row with Billy Holland making his 246th Munster appearance in the second row alongside Jean Kleyn. Gavin Coombes, captain Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander start in the back row.
The bench is stacked impressively with Tadhg Beirne, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery and Keith Earls among the options for a second wave against a Connacht side which shows almost as many changes to their starting XV.
Tom Daly will lead the visitors for the first time from inside-centre, Kieran Marmion is drafted in at scrum-half and there are half-a-dozen changes up front, including a new front row made up of Paddy McAllister, Shane Delahunt and Dominic Robertson-McCoy.
Ultan Dillane comes back in to the second row while Cian Prendergast and Abraham Papali’I are the others to step in on the back of last week’s heavy defeat at home to Leinster when they conceded a wincing 50 points.
Bundee Aki is still serving a suspension.
“We’ve shaken things up a bit in our starting XV with players who deserve a start either through training performances or impacts off the bench,” said head coach Andy Friend. “There’s bags of experience among the replacements as well with six centurions so I’m sure they’ll do a job when called upon.”