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Where Warren Gatland's Wales are poised to do the most damage

The best single unit in the Wales side is the formidable back row.

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Paul O'Connell's 18-year-old nephew primed to make Munster debut

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Evan O’Connell, the 18-year-old nephew of legendary Ireland and Lions skipper Paul, is set to become the youngest player to play for Munster in the professional era after he was named on their bench for Saturday’s URC game versus Ulster.

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An injury crisis has hit the Irish province at second row and they have included the relation of O’Connell, the 43-year-old who these days works as an Ireland assistant to Andy Farrell, as a replacement as they look to bounce back from last weekend’s away loss at Leinster.

The Munster team announcement statement read: “Evan O’Connell and Cian Hurley are included among the replacements with 18-year-old O’Connell in line to make his Munster debut. If he features, UL Bohs man and former Castletroy College student O’Connell will become the province’s youngest player of the professional era, beating the record Ruadhan Quinn set earlier this season. Hurley is in line for his second Munster appearance.”

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The rookie’s bio in the academy section of the Munster website read: “Evan O’Connell joined the academy ahead of the 2022/23 season and plays his AIL rugby with UL Bohs. A former Castletroy College student, Evan lined out for the Munster U18 schools team at the start of the 2021/22 season.

“He captained Castletroy in the Pinergy Munster Schools Senior Cup later that year before lining out for Ireland in the 2022 U18 Six Nations festival. O’Connell featured for the Munster U19s in the 2022 interprovincial campaign.”

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The inclusion of the 6ft 7in, 109kg O’Connell on the bench was confirmed on Friday shortly after Munster had announced the signing of Kiran McDonald as injury cover on a three-month deal after he was made redundant by Wasps on October 17. “The second row will link up with the province this weekend,” Munster said before elaborating on the scale of their engine room injury situation.

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“On the injury front, there was disappointment for Jean Kleyn and Tom Ahern following scan results for respective rib and shoulder injuries sustained against Leinster last weekend. Kleyn will be unavailable for the next number of weeks while Ahern is due to meet with a specialist next week.

“The duo join Fineen Wycherley (shoulder), RG Snyman (knee) and the uncapped Paddy Kelly (head) on the unavailable list, while Tadhg Beirne is with the Ireland squad for the Bank of Ireland Nations Series.”

Munster (vs Ulster, Saturday)
15. Mike Haley; 14. Shane Daly, 13. Malakai Fekitoa, 12. Rory Scannell, 11. Patrick Campbell; 10. Jack Crowley, 9. Paddy Patterson; 1. Dave Kilcoyne, 2. Diarmuid Barron, 3. John Ryan, 4. Edwin Edogbo, 5. Eoin O’Connor, 6. Jack O’Donoghue (capt), 7. John Hodnett, 8. Alex Kendellen. Reps: 16. Niall Scannell, 17. Josh Wycherley, 18. Roman Salanoa, 19. Evan O’Connell, 20. Cian Hurley, 21. Neil Cronin, 22. Ben Healy, 23. Simon Zebo.

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