Munster look to continue their four match winning streak when they host Edinburgh this weekend in the Guinness Pro14.Zebre, Cheetahs, Glasgow and Cloucester have all been put to the sword in Munster’s last four games, and they will be considered strong favourites for this game.
Edinburgh, on the other hand, most recently lost to the Dragons so will be hoping to get back to winning ways, although won’t be expecting much.
It is difficult not to find quality wherever you look in coach Johann van Graan’s selection. Seven players are back, no doubt with Joe Schmidt’s homework and detailed instructions for improvement still ringing in their ears.
Scrumhalf Conor Murray and centre Chris Farrell will start for the first time following long injury lay-offs after both had runs from the bench last week against Zebre with no adverse reaction.
Bad timing for November obviously, but good timing for the pair with the home and away legs of Castres Olympique in the European Champions Cup coming up on short order. Also, it’s two months before Ireland’s first Six Nations match against England on February 2nd.
Johann van Graan has named a strong team to face Edinburgh in Cork on Friday night with the majority of Munster’s international contingent coming back into the starting 15 while Conor Murray makes his first start of the season.
Peter O’Mahony captains the side with Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan and Tadhg Beirne all starting.
Murray – who made his return off the bench against Zebre on Sunday after a neck injury – will start at scrum-half.
In total there are 11 changes to the side that defeated Zebre in dreadful conditions in Italy on Sunday.
Mike Haley keeps his place at full-back with wingers Conway and Earls completing the back three.
Chris Farrell makes his first start of the season alongside Rory Scannell in the centres.
JJ Hanrahan wears 10 while it’s all change in the front five as Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and Ryan come into the front row with Ryan making his 130th appearance for the province.
Billy Holland and Beirne start in the engine room with Chris Cloete and Arno Botha keeping their places in the side as captain O’Mahony completes the back row.
Sammy Arnold, who made his Ireland debut last week, is among the replacements along with Academy man Gavin Coombes.
Both can set targets there, with Farrell joining the cluttered centre and the sparring team of Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki and currently hamstrung Robbie Henshaw. There will be blood on the floor there.
Farrell produced a man-of-the-match performance in February’s Six Nations game with Wales, but injured his knee in training and missed a heck of a lot.
Prior to last week Murray’s last competitive action came during Ireland’s successful summer tour of Australia. His neck mended, he partners JJ Hanrahan.
With Keith Earls also sharing a back line with Andrew Conway and Rory Scannell, Munster have plenty of go-forward bite. Conway’s wheels will still be spinning from his three tries against the USA. He wants to be noticed by Schmidt. He was.
Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Tadhg Beirne, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (C), Chris Cloete, Arno Botha.
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Jeremy Loughman, Ciaran Parker, Fineen Wycherley, Gavin Coombes, Duncan Williams, Tyler Bleyendaal, Sammy Arnold.
Edinburgh: Dougie Fife, Tom Brown, George Taylor, Juan Pablo Socino, Duhan van der Merwe, Jaco van der Walt, Nathan Fowles, Rory Sutherland, David Cherry, Murray McCallum, James Hodgson, Callum Hunter-Hill, Ally Miller, Lewis Wynne, Luke Hamilton
Replacements: Ross Ford, Darryl Marfo, Pietro Ceccarelli, Callum Atkinson, Senitiki Nayalo, Sean Kennedy, Jason Baggott, Chris Dean