Tadhg Beirne is set for his first start of the season as Munster turn to academy wings Conor Philips and Patrick Campbell for Saturday’s BKT United Rugby Championship home opener against Zebre Parma in Cork.
Graham Rowntree, still looking for his first win since succeeding Johann van Graan as head coach this summer, has made four changes from the side that was beaten is such disappointing fashion at Dragons last Sunday. Munster had also lost on the opening weekend at Cardiff but have since lost nine players to the Emerging Ireland squad currently on tour in South Africa but Rowntree has still managed to shuffle his selection options from his available squad members.
Former Crescent College star Phillips, 22, will make his senior debut in a back three also featuring fellow academy wing and Young Munster clubmate Patrick Campbell, 20, and full-back Mike Haley. Former Cork All-Ireland Minor champion hurler Campbell’s two previous starts came at full-back in last season’s Heineken Champions Cup pool stages, a try-scoring debut against Wasps and at home to Castres.
There is also a positional switch in midfield with Dan Goggin moving to inside centre and Malakai Fekitoa starting at 13.
Rowntree has made two changes to the forward pack led by captain Peter O’Mahony with Beirne moving off the bench from last week’s defeat in Newport to the second row alongside Fineen Wycherley in the absence of Jean Kleyn, who is proceeding through his return to play protocols following a head injury five days ago.
Healy and starting number nine Craig Casey were two of five Munster players whose contract extensions were announced on Friday morning and Casey is set for his 50th appearance for his province, starting once again alongside fly-half Ben Healy, with fellow scrum-half Conor Murray poised for his first appearance of the season off the bench having been named among the replacements.
Also on the bench is 18-year-old first-season academy back-row Ruadhan Quinn, another product of Limerick’s Crescent College who impressed in pre-season is included among the replacements and is set to become the youngest player to appear in a competitive fixture for Munster in the professional era.
Quinn’s potential debut comes a week after academy lock Edwin Edogbo made his first appearance at Dragons and he returns his place on the bench, where veteran tighthead Stephen Archer will make his 250th Munster appearance from as back-up to starter Keynan Knox.
Like Murray, loosehead replacement Jeremy Loughman and outside backs cover Rory Scannell are set for their first appearances of the URC campaign from the bench.
M Haley, C Phillips, M Fekitoa, D Goggin, P Campbell, B Healy, C Casey; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, K Knox, F Wycherley, T Beirne, J O’Donoghue, P O’Mahony (CAPT), J O’Sullivan.
S Buckley, J Loughman, S Archer, E Edogbo, R Quinn, C Murray, J Carbery, R Scannell.
R Kriel, P Bruno, E Cronjé, E Lucchin (CAPT), J Trulla, T Eden, A Fusco, J Pitinari, G Ribaldi, I Neculai, G Venditti, L Krumov, D Ruggeri, MJ Pelser, T Fox-Matamua.
L Bigi, L Rizzoli, M Nocera, J Furno, I Bianchi, N Casilio, F Smith Jr, L Pani.
AJ Jacobs (SARU)