Munster ring the changes for last 16 clash with Scarlets as Ireland pair return for Leinster's trip to Dragons
Guinness PRO12 Round 16: Munster v Scarlets (tonight, Thomond Park, 7.35pm, live on TG4), Newport Gwent Dragons v Leinster
MUNSTER Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus has made five changes to the side that ground out a win against Ospreys last weekend round for tonight’s clash with Scarlets at Thomond Park.
The game comes too soon for Jack O’Donoghue and Rory Scannell. O’Donoghue (ankle) and Scannell (knee) are expected to make a return to full training at some point next week.
On a positive front, Jaco Taute has made a full recovery from his shoulder knock sustained against Newport Gwent Dragons to start at full-back this weekend.
The only other change to the backline sees academy centre Dan Goggin take his place alongside Francis Saili in midfield.
In his second PRO12 start, academy back row Conor Oliver makes his first appearance in the number 8 jersey as he joins Dave O’Callaghan and Tommy O’Donnell in the back three.
Tipperary lock Dave Foley links up with Billy Holland in the engine room as Stephen Archer takes his place in the front row scrumming down next to Rhys Marshall and Dave Kilcoyne.
In the replacements, Bantry native and first year academy lock Fineen Wycherley is included in his first Guinness PRO12 squad. The 19-year-old Young Munster player has made two starts for the Ireland U20s in this year’s 6 Nations campaign.
Finally, Ian Keatley and Andrew Conway return from Ireland camp to be named in the match-day 23.
Meanwhile, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen welcomes back Ireland internationals Fergus McFadden and Rhys Ruddock for tonight’s clash with the Dragons at Rodney Parade.
Carlow native Ed Byrne is also in line to make his long awaited return after over two years out with career-threatening knee injuries and there are four changes in the backs, plus two positional switches and a four changes in the pack.
Joey Carbery starts his first game for Leinster at full back but the Athy native has played there a number of times during games already this season most recently against both Treviso and Edinburgh.
Adam Byrne starts on the right wing looking to add to his tally of nine tries in all competitions this season. On the left wing Fergus McFadden is back for his first game since Cardiff Blues in October. Injury has restricted the Kildare man to only two games in total all season.
It’s a new centre combination this week with Noel Reid and Zane Kirchner at 12 and 13 respectively. Jamison Gibson-Park picks up cap number 21 at scrumhalf while outside him UCD’s Ross Byrne plays in the 10 jersey.
In the pack Peter Dooley again lines up at loose head prop with Richardt Strauss back to captain the side from hooker and Michael Bent to his right at tight head for his 80th Leinster cap.
It’s as you were in the second row with Ross Molony and Mike McCarthy again leading the Leinster charge from the engine room.
Behind Molony and McCarthy, Rhys Ruddock returns from a quad injury to start at blind side flanker while Meath man Peadar Timmins will make his first start for Leinster at open side having made five appearances off the bench to date. Finally Jack Conan will scrum down at number eight.
Munster (v Scarlets): J Taute; D Sweetnam, F Saili, D Goggin, R O’Mahony; T Bleyendaal, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, R Marshall, S Archer; D Foley, B Holland; D O’Callaghan, T O’Donnell, C Oliver
Replacements: K O’Byrne, P McCabe, B Scott, D O’Shea, F Wycherley, A Griesel, I Keatley, A Conway
Leinster (v Dragons): P Dooley, R Strauss, M Bent, R Molony, M McCarthy, R Ruddock, P Timmins, J Conan, J Gibson-Park, R Byrne, F McFadden, N Reid, Z Kirchner, A Byrne, J Carbery
Replacements: J Tracy, E Byrne, M Ross, H Triggs, M Deegan, L McGrath, C Marsh, B Daly