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Munster Side Named For Season Opener

August 31, 2017 11:52 am By The Editor

Chris Farrell will make his competitive debut for Munster tomorrow night.

Chris Farrell will make his competitive debut for Munster tomorrow night. ©INPHO/James Crombie

Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus has named his side for Munster’s Guinness PRO14 opener against Benetton Rugby under Friday Night Lights at Irish Independent Park, Cork tomorrow night – ko 7.35pm.

Just two changes are made to the side that defeated Worcester Warriors in preseason action last week, academy flanker Sean O’Connor coming into the back row to make his first PRO14 appearance and returning international Andrew Conway joining the back-three at full back.

Retaining his starting spot after an impressive showing in preseason, loosehead Liam O’Connor is the second academy player to make his first start and packs down alongside Rhys Marshall and Stephen Archer.

The addition of O’Connor to the back row sees Billy Holland revert to the tight five and is partnered by Jean Kleyn in the second row.  The South African has successfully rehabbed the neck injury that saw him miss the end of last season.

Openside Tommy O’Donnell, who has now completed return-to-play protocols, and number 8 Jack O’Donoghue complete the pack.

Netting a brace in Worcester, Duncan Williams continues at half back alongside captain Tyler Bleyendaal, while Chris Farrell makes his competitive debut for the province in partnering Jaco Taute in midfield.

Wingers Alex Wootton and Darren Sweetnam join Conway in the back-three, the latter drawing ever closer to 100 PRO14 appearances and will play in the competition for the 98th time tomorrow night.

Named on the bench, long term injury returnee Mike Sherry could play his first competitive game since May 2016, with James Hart and Ciaran Parker in line for PRO14 debuts.

Robin Copeland overcomes a shoulder injury in timely fashion for the new season and also takes his place on the bench.

Munster: Andrew Conway, Darren Sweetnam, Chris Farrell, Jaco Taute, Alex Wootton; Tyler Bleyendaal – capt., Duncan Williams; Liam O’Connor, Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland; Sean O’Connor, Tommy O’Donnell, Jack O’Donoghue.

Replacements: Mike Sherry, Brian Scott, Ciaran Parker, Fineen Wycherley, Robin Copeland, James Hart, Ian Keatley, Dan Goggin.

Player Injury Update

Following a scan for the ankle knock he sustained in Worcester, Gerbrandt Grobler will meet with a specialist next week, Conor Oliver undergoes shoulder surgery this week and is expected to be sidelined until the new year, while James Cronin underwent a knee scope and will be unavailable for the opening rounds of the season.

Video Preview

After training in UL this week, MunsterRugby.ie caught up with Billy Holland to get his thoughts on Friday night’s game and the season ahead.

Friday Night Lights

With both players and the team looking to lay down marker for the season ahead, start this weekend by cheering on Munster ‘under lights’ at Irish Independent Park.

Munster v Benetton Rugby, Guinness PRO14 Round 1, Friday September 1st, ko 7.35pm.

Tickets – Junior €7, Adult €20, Family €40 – can be purchased online here, or at the ground on the night.

Munster - Match Page - Lineups - Preview

Munster Off to Flying Start

September 1, 2017 11:14 pm By The Editor

Alex Wootton scores Munster bonus point try.

Alex Wootton scores Munster bonus point try. ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

Munster got their 2017/18 Guinness PRO14 campaign off to the perfect start with a bonus point win against Benetton Rugby in Irish Independent Park tonight.

Thanks to six tries and an impenetrable defence the men in red claimed the spoils to secure their first five points of the new season.

First half-tries from Jean Kleyn, Tyler Bleyendaal, Darren Sweetnam, Alex Wootton and Andrew Conway had the hosts well ahead come half-time, and an early converted effort from Kleyn was the difference in a subdued final forty.

The South African lock made his presence felt following a return from long-term injury.  In barging his way over in the opening 10 minutes he became the first try scorer of the new Guinness PRO14 Championship.

Munster’s continued dominance through the early phases then created the gap for Bleyendaal to dot down for Munster’s second, and two became three when neat hands from Wootton sent his fellow winger Sweetnam over in the corner.

Wootton himself bagged the bonus point try just after the half hour mark in what was the play of the game. Giving an inspired man-of-the-match performance, Conway’s aerial take and break was the catalyst – Tommy O’Donnell, Jack O’Donoghue, Sweetnam and Bleyendaal all giving a masterclass in interplay with Wootton finishing off the counter attack in the left corner.

Man of the match Andrew Conway.

Man of the match Andrew Conway.
©INPHO/Bryan Keane

Conway’s scintillating form continued and was rewarded with a try four minutes later, running a hard line and taking the deftest of offloads from his back three counterpart Sweetnam.

Not enjoying his best of nights off the tee, Bleyendaal slotted just one opening-half conversion and Munster led 27-3 at the break.

The second 40 would be a far tamer affair.  Working through the phases off a strong scrum, Kleyn secured his brace on 49 minutes and that would be it in terms of scores for the men in red.

If the earlier exchanges were all about attack, the latter were focused on defence.  Yet that too was impressive, never wavering to the bruising Italians who failed to register a single point from their superior second half possession.

Munster deserved winners on a 34-3 scoreline.

Guinness PRO14 Round 1:  On the injury front there was cause for concern when Dan Goggin was stretchered off with a leg injury after 74 minutes.  He continues to be assessed by the medical team.

On 41 minutes Mike Sherry was introduced to rapturous applause for his first competitive action since May 2016, returning from a long-term back injury.

Three academy players featured in the side with first starts for Liam O’Connor and Sean O’Connor while Fineen Wycherley featured off the bench.

Chris Farrell and replacements James Hart and Ciaran Parker make their competitive debuts for the province.

Munster: Andrew Conway; Darren Sweetnam, Chris Farrell (D Goggin 66), Jaco Taute (I Keatley 50), Alex Wootton, Tyler Bleyendaal, Duncan Williams (J Hart 55); Liam O’Connor (B Scott 69), Rhys Marshall (M Sherry 41), Stephen Archer (C Parker 63); Jean Kleyn (F Wycherley 60), Billy Holland (R Copeland 59); Sean O’Connor, Tommy O’Donnell, Jack O’Donoghue.

Replacements: Mike Sherry, Brian Scott, Ciaran Parker, Fineen Wycherley, Robin Copeland, James Hart, Ian Keatley, Dan Goggin.

After the game, MunsterRugby.ie spoke to academy lock Sean O’Connor following his first senior start…

Next Home Game

Next Saturday, September 9th, Munster return to Thomond Park to face Cheetahs.  Be there to witness history as the province take on South African opposition for the first time in competition.

Adult tickets from 20 and Family tickets from 40 can be purchased online here.

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