No great surprises in Rob Penney’s selection for the Heineken Cup match against Saracens at Thomond Park Stadium tomorrow (6pm) even if there are seven changes from the side that took the field against Edinburgh in Round 2.
Two of those changes are positional while three who start tomorrow, James Coughlan, Ronan O’Gara and Keith Earls missed out last time through injury and Felix Jones came on as a replacement in that game on his return from injury.
Earls returned to the outside centre berth last week after the November internationals and he retains that jersey at the expense of Casey Laulala who offers a very potent back option from the bench.
And with back-rowers Niall Ronan, Sean Dougall, and Tommy O’Donnell all on the injured list, opportunity knocks for Dave O’Callaghan who has been handed the number 6 shirt in what will be his first Heineken Cup start.
O’Callaghan a 22 year old Development contracted player from Youghal came on as a replacement in the final Pool game last season against Northampton Saints and this season has been a regular wearer of that number 6 shirt starting in seven of the Rabo games and benching it against Racing Metro and Edinburgh.
Given the blight on the back rows, Coughlan’s return is particularly opportune. He ‘s confounded the medics by a return from a groin tear way ahead of schedule and put in an impressive near full shift against Glasgow Warriors last week here in Thomond Park Stadium.
Munster: F Jones; D Howlett capt, K Earls, J Downey, S Zebo; R O’Gara, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, BJ Botha; D O’Callaghan, D Ryan; Dave O’Callaghan, P O’Mahony, J Coughlan. Replacements: D Varley, W du Preez, S Archer, B Holland, P Butler, D Williams, I Keatley, C Laulala.