GRAHAM ROWNTREE has named what looks like his strongest team of the season to date as the Bulls come to Thomond Park (Saturday, 7.35) intent one extending the home side’s miserable start to the BKT United Rugby Championship campaign.
With the Emerging Ireland crew back on home soil, the English coach has handed starts to wingers Shane Daly and Calvin Nash with Pa Campbell reverting to full-back as Diarmuid Barron, Roman Salanoa, Tom Ahern, Jack Crowley and John Hodnett come on to the bench.
It’s a big contingent considering those players were not able to train with the squad for the first half of the week, but considering the poor performances to date the coach has opted to make major changes.
Captain Peter O’Mahony has been deemed fit to start, with 19-year-old Edwin Edogbo rewarded for his input to date with a spot in the second-row as Tadhg Beirne moves to the blindside.
The Cobh Pirate has impressed in his efforts off the bench this week and will add considerable size to Munster’s efforts against a big Bulls outfit.
Joey Carbery is named at out-half as Ben Healy pays the price for a difficult outing in Galway by dropping out of the squad altogether, with Craig Casey coming in at No 9 and Dan Goggin and Malakai Fekitoa partnering in midfield.
Jeremy Loughman comes in for Dave Kilcoyne, with Stephen Archer replacing Keynan Knox who is another to miss out altogether.
Munster have lost three of their first four matches and will be desperate to mark their return to Limerick with a win.
The Bulls have made changes after last year’s finalists suffered their first loss of the season in Glasgow last week.
Jake White said the alterations were pre-planned and names a strong visiting side, with the excellent Johan Goosen back at No 10 and a formidable back-row of Marcel Coetzee, WJ Steenkamp and Elrigh Louw looking to test their hosts.
Meanwhile, Ulster have included Emerging Ireland players Robert Baloucoune and Dave McCann from the start against the Lions (Saturday, 1,0), with Callum Reid, Cormac Izuchukwu, Nathan Doak, Stewart Moore and Ethan McIlroy on the bench.
There’s no place for new signing Rory Sutherland or James Hume who is close to a return to action as they look to continue their strong start to the season.
Munster: Patrick Campbell, Calvin Nash, Malakai Fekitoa, Dan Goggin, Shane Daly, Joey Carbery, Craig Casey, Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Edwin Edogbo, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O'Mahony (CAPT), Gavin Coombes.
Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Dave Kilcoyne, Roman Salanoa, Tom Ahern, Jack O'Donoghue, Conor Murray, Jack Crowley, John Hodnett
Bulls: Kurt-lee Arendse, Cornel Hendricks, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Wandisile Simelane, Johan Goosen, Embrose Papier, Simphiwe Matanzima, Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Mornay Smith, Walt Steenkamp, Run Nortje, Marcell Coetzee (CAPT), WJ Steenkamp, Elrigh Louw
Replacements: Bismarck Du Plessis, Dylan Smith, Jacques van Rooyen, Ruan Vermaak, Marco Van Staden, Zak Burger, Chris Smith, David Kriel
Lions: Andries Coetzee, Edwill van der Merwe, Henco van Wyk, Marius Louw, Quan Horn, Gianni Lombard, Sanele Nohamba, JP Smith, Jaco Visagie, Ruan Dreyer, Willem Alberts, Reinhard Nothnagel (CAPT), Emmanuel Tshituka, Ruan Venter, Francke Horn
Replacements: PJ Botha, Sti Sithole, Ruan Smith, Pieter Jansen van Vuren, Sibusiso Sangweni, Morne van den Berg, Jordan Hendrikse, Zander du Plessis
Ulster: Michael Lowry, Rob Baloucoune, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Rob Lyttle, Billy Burns, John Cooney, Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Gareth Milasinovich, Alan O’Connor (CAPT), Sam Carter, Dave McCann, Marcus Rea, Duane Vermeulen
Replacements: John Andrew, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Cormac Izuchukwu, Nick Timoney, Nathan Doak, Stewart Moore, Ethan McIlroy