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12 players set to make their debut for quarantine-hit Munster

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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The immense impact that the recent ill-fated trip to South African has taken on Munster has been laid bare by the confirmation of their matchday 23 to face Wasps in this Sunday’s opening round of the Champions Cup in England. Ireland stars such as Peter O’Mahony, who didn’t make the trip to the southern hemisphere, are included to start but the quarantine red tape affecting those who travelled will see the back-rower take the field with a huge contingent of very unfamiliar names.  

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In total, a dozen players are set to make their senior Munster debuts in the fixture at Coventry, with five debutants chosen in the starting XV – academy quartet Patrick Campbell, Scott Buckley, Eoin O’Connor and Daniel Okeke, and senior prop James French.

Eight of the newcomers in the matchday 23 hail from the academy that this season has been run by Ian Costello, the ex-Wasps defence coach, but the story of the Munster selection isn’t all about inexperience as Conor Murray, Damian de Allende and Chris Farrell are all set to make their first starts for the province this season. Campbell starts at full-back with Andrew Conway and Keith Earls on either flank.

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Munster’s CEO talks about his squad quarantine situation
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Munster’s CEO talks about his squad quarantine situation

De Allende and Farrell team up in the centres with Murray and Joey Carbery in the half-backs. Dave Kilcoyne packs down in the front row with Buckley and French. Tadhg Beirne starts alongside Eoin O’Connor in the second row, while captain O’Mahony, John Hodnett and Okeke complete the side.

Roman Salanoa is among the replacements having recovered from a knee injury and could make his European debut while seven other players are in line to make their Munster debuts off the bench. Summer addition Declan Moore and academy quartet Mark Donnelly, Ethan Coughlan, Tony Butler and Jonathan Wren are included along with John Forde and Conor Moloney.

Munster have overcome fraught preparations for European games before, namely their 2016 win over Glasgow six days after coach Anthony Foley had tragically died in his sleep in Paris prior to a scheduled match at Racing, but Wasps will look to exploit Munster’s inexperience in the closing stages of this particular match. “If some of their guys haven’t played for six or seven weeks then it is up to us to take them as deep as we can in the game and make sure we are in the contest,” explained John Mitchell, the Premiership club’s assistant coach. “We need to create the pressure that questions fitness in the last quarter.”

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MUNSTER: Patrick Campbell; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Scott Buckley, James French; Eoin O’Connor, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony (capt), John Hodnett, Daniel Okeke. Reps: Declan Moore, Mark Donnelly, Roman Salanoa, John Forde, Conor Moloney, Ethan Coughlan, Tony Butler, Jonathan Wren.

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