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Crowley gets first Munster Euro start after escaping URC sanction

By Liam Heagney

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Rookie Jack Crowley has been chosen for his first Champions Cup start for Munster having avoided getting sanctioned for his involvement in last Saturday’s red-carded incident featuring teammate Simon Zebo and Ulster’s Michael Lowry.

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Zebo was sent off at Thomond Park for a collision in which the two Munster players tackled their Ulster opponent who had just gathered the ball. That decision resulted in a midweek disciplinary hearing for Zebo where he was exonerated of foul play and told he was free to play rather than copping a ban. 

A United Rugby Championship statement post the hearing read: “The disciplinary panel of Declan Goodwin (chair, Wales), Frank Hadden and Sarah Smith (both Scotland) considered all of the evidence and camera angles available and concluded that the player’s actions did not result in foul play

“In particular, on detailed examination of the video evidence, the panel determined that it was No10 of Munster [Crowley] who completes the tackle on Michael Lowry of Ulster, with Simon Zebo only making minimal contact whilst wrapping his left arm. As a result, the player is free to continue playing this weekend.”

The irony of this outcome is that the cleared Zebo hasn’t been included in the Munster matchday 23 to take on Castres away in France whereas Crowley, who escaped sanction last Saturday but was singled out at the disciplinary hearing verdict as the main culprit in the tackle, has been picked to start for the Irish province in the No10 shirt.

Having turned 22 on Thursday, the day of team selection, it will be his third-ever start for Munster and his first in Europe after a Champions Cup debut off the bench in last month’s home win over Castres. The exclusion of Zebo from the starting line-up is one of five changes to the side following the league win over Ulster.

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Captain Peter O’Mahony returns after missing out last weekend due to a leg strain with Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Conor Murray and Jack O’Donoghue also coming into the side. There is also a positional switch for Tadhg Beirne, last week’s player of the match, as he moves to lock. Out-half Jake Flannery is in line to make his Champions Cup debut as a replacement.

MUNSTER (vs Castres, Friday) 
Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Jack Crowley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Fineen Wycherley, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony (capt), Jack O’Donoghue, Gavin Coombes. Reps: Diarmuid Barron, Jeremy Loughman, John Ryan, Jean Kleyn, John Hodnett, Craig Casey, Jake Flannery, Shane Daly.

 

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