Problem position: Munster's front row depth chart

For Munster supporters, the front row is constantly the focus of attention when it comes to pinpointing the province’s inability to compete at the highest level
Problem position: Munster's front row depth chart

FRONT ROW MAINSTAYS: Dave Kilcoyne and Stephen Archer during Munster training. Pic: INPHO/Ben Brady

For Munster supporters, the front row is constantly the focus of attention when it comes to pinpointing the province’s inability to compete at the highest level. An elite tighthead was expected to be high on the shopping list last summer but instead, Munster lost a proven and experienced operator in John Ryan. So who is left to carry Munster hopes up front under new head coach Graham Rowntree?

Hookers 

Niall Scannell – 30yo, 142 apps, 10 tries; 22/23 – 3 starts 

The senior hooker and currently top of the pecking order. Called up to Ireland’s summer tour to New Zealand as injury cover and played twice against the Maori.

Diarmuid Barron – 24, 36 apps, 3 tries; 22/23 – 1 rep 

Broke through last season, making Euro debut at home to Castres and starting nine of his 22 appearances. Started on Wednesday for Emerging Ireland.

Scott Buckley – 20, 9 apps, 1 try; 22/23 – 2 rep 

Became an instant Munster hero while still in the academy with a try-scoring, star of the match performance on debut in last season’s win at Wasps. Now on a senior contract, still waiting for a second start.

Chris Moore – 20, 0 apps 

Summer signing from Exeter University straight into the senior squad, former Ireland Under-18 Clubs cap is yet to feature in a matchday squad.

Looseheads 

Dave Kilcoyne – 33, 203 apps, 21 tries; 22/23 – 2 starts 1 rep 

Undisputed first-choice and a primary ball carrier, the Ireland prop looks in the best condition of his career having missed the second half of last season through injury.

Jeremy Loughman – 27, 73 apps, 5 tries; 22/23 – 1 rep 

Called into the Ireland Six Nations camp as injury cover, the former Leinster prop toured New Zealand in Ireland’s extended summer squad and started twice against the Maori All Blacks.

Josh Wycherley – 23, 29 apps, 2 tries; 22/23 – 1 start 

One of nine Munster men on tour with Emerging Ireland and was the starting loosehead in URC round one. Lots expected of the West Cork man.

Liam O’Connor – 27, 33 apps, 0 tries; 22/23 – 1 rep 

Has endured a tough few seasons with injuries and is perhaps the chief causalty of Josh Wycherley’s rapid rise through the academy.

Mark Donnelly – 21, 3 apps, 0 tries; 22/23 – 0 apps 

Academy second year made his senior debut in Europe at Wasps last December, one of three replacement appearances last season for the 2021 Ireland U20.

Kieran Ryan – 20, 0 apps First-year academy player from Shannon who has featured for Ireland Under-20s in the past year.

Tightheads 

Stephen Archer – 34, 250 apps, 6 tries; 22/23 – 1 start, 1 rep 

Now just 13 caps short of Donncha O’Callaghan’s all-time Munster appearance record but having outlasted old rival John Ryan he now faces stiff competition from a rising duo of tightheads… 

Keynan Knox – 23, 28 apps, 3 tries; 22/23 2 starts, 1 rep 

Left South Africa to join the Munster academy in 2017 and finally getting his rewards with two starts in the first three games of this season, with a try last Saturday against Zebre Parma. Poised for lift-off.

Roman Salanoa – 25, 10 apps, 1 try; 22/23 1 rep 

On tour with Emerging Ireland, the Hawaiian-born tighthead has been blighted by injury since his 2020 move from Leinster but if he can stay fit it should be an interesting battle for Munster selection with both Knox and Archer.

James French – 23, 1 app, 0 try; 22/23 0 apps 

Another debutant against Wasps last December in his first season out of the academy, has not featured since but is cutting his teeth with UCC in the AIL.

Darragh McSweeney – 20, 0 apps 

First-year academy tighthead who was a member of last season’s Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam winning team.

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