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John Hayes, Frank Sheahan & Marcus Horan packing down in training yesterday in Cork
Billy Stickland
Munster Select For French Trip
12 December 2008, 10:04 am
Despite the absence of Rua Tipoki, Denis Hurley, Jerry Flannery and Denis Leamy, the Munster starting XV shows just three changes from the one that took the field in the Heineken Cup last time out against Sale Sharks.
Neither Tipoki or Leamy were involved in the Edgeley Park game but this time around the one change in the back personnel sees Barry Murphy preferred to Paul Warwick while up front Frak Sheahan comes in for the injured Flannery while Niall Ronan gets the nod ahead of John O'Sullivan.

Murphy's inclusion sees him team up with Lifeimi Mafi in the centre with Keith Earls moving to full back and with Ronan wearing the number seven jersey, Donnacha Ryan, along with James Coughlan, provides strong back-row cover from the bench.

Despite the surprise defeat of Sunday's opposition by Mont-de-Marsan, Munster lock Donncha O'Callaghan anticipates a huge challenge in Clermont on Sunday. "If anything, that defeat will probably make them even more determined. Besides that they'll be looking to put one over on us for last year when we effectively stopped them making the knock-out stages," said O'Callaghan. "I've never played a game in France that wasn't hugely demanding and this one will be right up there with internationals in terms of speed, intensity, physicality anything you care to mention. But you wouldn't have it any other way, we're certainly aiming to give it our best shot."

Munster come into the game on foot of a narrow win over the Scarlets albeit with a less than convincing second half performance a fact not lost on captain Paul O'Connell. "While it was a huge boost to get a win we know our second half performance wasn't what was required. I thought though that we showed huge character to get back down there after the penalty try and then Rog did the rest as only he can.

"Of course we'd be realistic, disappointed with that second half but to keep producing performances you have to be emotional and passionate week in, week out and that's a hard thing to do. A very hard thing to do. That's why the Magners League is so important. It gives lads the opportunity to put their hands up and I think we've seen that happen the past few weeks. No side in this competition or anywhere could be happy losing the likes of Rua, Denis Hurley, Jerry or Leamy on an individual basis never mind at the same time. But we have 30 odd players hungry to be in the starting XV and that can only be a good thing. I think that's an indicator that our squad is stronger now than it has been in the past."

Munster: K Earls; D Howlett, B Murphy, L Mafi, I Dowling; R O'Gara, T O'Leary; M Horan, F Sheahan, J Hayes; D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell; A Quinlan, N Ronan, D Wallace. Replacements: D Fogarty, T Buckley, D Ryan, J Coughlan, P Stringer, P Warwick, K Lewis.

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