Preview of Munster rugby’s opening Pro 12 fixture

Munster Rugby’s official website have announced the province’s starting XV for Friday night’s Pro12 opener and there are no real surprises in Rob Penney’s first competitive selection.

The side to play Edinburgh includes the three summer signings Casey Laulala, James Downey and Sean Dougall plus internationals Donncha O’Callaghan and Mike Sherry.

Besides the three newcomers the only uncapped player in the squad is wing forward Barry O’Mahony while Doug Howlett leads the side for the first time competitively in his new role as squad captain.

Downey and Laulala form the midfield pairing and after an impressive debut season in which he scored four tries Luke O’Dea is named on the left wing.

Up front there’s a strong spine to the selection, Damien Varley propped by the South Africanpair Wian du Preez and BJ Botha. Donncha O’Callaghan is partnered by the hard working Billy Holland with Dougall joined in the back row by youth and experience in the shape of Paddy Butler (6) and the ever dependable James Coughlan at number 8.

And there will be no easing into the season for Penney’s side as Michael Bradley welcomes back a number of his internationals who were involved in the the triumphant three Test Australasia tour.

Top try-scorer Tim Visser, skipper Greig Laidlaw, Nick De LucaRoss Ford and Ross Renniecould all feature at some stage on Saturday while David Denton rejoins the extended squad for the first time since sustaining the ankle injury that forced him to miss the summer tour.  Bradley is not expected to confirm his starting XV until the Friday noon deadline.

Munster: D Hurley; D Howlett capt, C Laulala, J Downey, L O’Dea; I Keatley, D Williams; W du Preez, D Varley, BJ Botha; D O’Callaghan, B Holland; P Butler, S Dougall, J Coughlan.Replacements: M Sherry, M Horan, S Archer, D Foley, B O’Mahony, P Stringer, S Deasy, I Dineen.

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