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Munster Rugby host Cardiff Blues tonight at Thomond Park in Conference B of the Guinness Pro14. The two unbeaten sides meet in the first non-Christmas/New Year Monday night rugby game in the championship with live coverage on TG4 and eir sport.
Munster won the last two meetings against the Blues and will hope to maintain that good recent record tonight. Johann van Graan has made nine changes to the side that defeated Edinburgh 25-23 in Limerick in Round 2.
Billy Holland will make his seasonal appearance for this Round 3 clash with the Corkman captaining the team. Holland will be partnered in the second row by Fineen Wycherley as Munster aim to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.
A new-look front row sees James Cronin, Kevin O’Byrne and Stephen Archer named by the South African-born Head Coach.
Munster Rugby Academy player John Hodnett is chosen at openside with Gavin Coombes named at number eight. Waterford’s Jack O’Donoghue remains on the blindside flank.
Recent Munster hero Ben Healy named
Craig Casey and Munster Rugby Academy out half Ben Healy remain as the half back pairing. Healy has been the hero in both of Munster’s games this season. Firstly, his late kick gave the southern province a 30-27 win over the Scarlets in Round 1. Then, he converted CJ Stander’s late try against Edinburgh in their Round 2 clash.
Dan Goggin is named in midfield alongside Rory Scannell. Darren Sweetnam and Calvin Nash are chosen on the wings, with Mike Haley named at fullback.
In the replacements, Munster Rugby Academy prop Josh Wycherley, younger brother of Fineen, looks set to make his senior debut. He is joined on the bench by the experience of Rhys Marshall, Jean Kleyn, Chris Cloete and JJ Hanrahan amongst others.
Munster Rugby team:
15. Mike Haley, 14. Calvin Nash, 13. Dan Goggin, 12. Rory Scannell, 11. Darren Sweetnam, 10. Ben Healy, 9. Craig Casey.
1. James Cronin, 2. Kevin O’Byrne, 3. Stephen Archer, 4. Fineen Wycherley, 5. Billy Holland (captain), 6. Jack O’Donoghue, 7. John Hodnett, 8. Gavin Coombes.
Munster Rugby replacements:
16. Rhys Marshall, 17. Josh Wycherley, 18. Roman Salanoa, 19. Jean Kleyn, 20. Chris Cloete, 21. Nick McCarthy, 22. JJ Hanrahan, 23. Damian de Allende.
Players not considered for selection
Peter O’Mahony wasn’t considered for the game as he was involved in Ireland’s win over Italy on Saturday. Joey Carbery continues to suffer from an ankle injury. Neil Cronin and Keith Earls miss out with knee and back problems respectively.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s game, Munster Rugby Senior Coach Stephen Larkham said:
“If you look at our run of games coming up, this will be our best preparation for a while. We’ll have 16 games in a row now. We had a couple of days off last week and had really good prep for this as we had a proper seven-day turnaround.
“It’s all part of the environment that we live in now, and adapting to different situations.”
The game kicks off at 8.15pm, with TV coverage beginning on eir sport at 7.45pm and TG4 at 7.50pm.