Van Graan hands Munster's youth an opportunity to shine

The province have named an exciting team for tonight’s clash with Benetton.

Munster's Jake Flannery.
Munster's Jake Flannery.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

IF ALL EYES were on Joey Carbery last week, tonight the stage is cleared for the next generation of Munster talent to shine.

With next Saturday’s Pro14 final looming large, head coach Johann van Graan has understandably taken the majority of his key men out of the firing line, and the result is an exciting, youthful team for tonight’s encounter with Benetton [KO 6pm; Live on TG4 and eir Sport], which sees 13 changes and two positional switches as the province look to end their regular season campaign on a high.

Cian Hurley is named to make his senior debut, while Diarmuid Barron, Jake Flannery and Paddy Paterson are all handed their first starts for the province.

They’ll head out confident of securing a win, too, welcoming a Benetton team who will struggle to take any kind of positives from what has been a desperate league campaign.

The Italian side have lost all 13 of their Pro14 fixtures this season. Munster have never lost to Benetton at Thomond Park, but their last meeting in Italy was closer than the province would have liked, with JJ Hanrahan’s memorable drop-goal swinging the result Munster’s way back in January.

The experimental make-up of this Munster team makes a shock defeat all the more possible this time around, but it would make little difference to Van Graan.

cian-hurley Cian Hurley is set to make his Munster debut. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

He’ll just want to see his young players take their chance and play to their strengths, while hoping others, such as Andrew Conway and JJ Hanrahan, show a bit of form ahead of that all-important team selection next weekend.

The presence of experienced campaigners such as Chris Cloete and captain Jack O’Donoghue ensures there is still plenty of punch in the Munster pack.

So what to expect of the new guys?

Flannery, who starts at fullback, will graduate to a senior contract next season and is one of the most exciting young players on Munster’s books, as evidenced by his commanding and inventive showing at out-half in Munster A’s recent draw with Connacht Eagles.

Patterson, who joined on a short-term deal from Leinster in January, also featured in that game and brought good pace to Munster’s play, before coming off the bench to make his Munster debut against Scarlets last weekend.

Hooker Barron, 22, has made 10 appearances off the bench for Munster but will be keen to show he is capable of taking the next step in his progression.

Clonakity native Hurley is a member of the National Talent Squad and had featured five times for Munster A this season.

For all of those players this experience will be the most beneficial yet, and supporters will also appreciate the chance to see the next generation get some meaningful gametime.

With Munster about to enter the business stage of their season, many of those on show this evening won’t get any more game time with the senior squad until the 2021/22 season rolls around.

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With that in mind, they will be desperately determined to make a lasting impression against a Benetton side which boasts plenty of international experience, but will be glad to see the back of this season.

Even with Munster’s place in next week’s final secure, it will be their players who enter this game feeling like they have something to play for.

Munster: Jake Flannery; Andrew Conway, Alex McHenry, Rory Scannell, Liam Coombes; JJ Hanrahan, Paddy Patterson; Liam O’Connor, Diarmuid Barron, Keynan Knox; Cian Hurley, Thomas Ahern; Jack O’Donoghue (captain), Chris Cloete, Jack O’Sullivan.

Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Jeremy Loughman, Roman Salanoa, Jack Daly, Tommy O’Donnell, Nick McCarthy, Ben Healy, Matt Gallagher.

Benetton: Jayden Hayward; Ratuva Tavuyara, Joaquin Riera, Luca Morisi, Angelo Esposito; Tommaso Allan, Dewaldt Duvenage (captain); Nicola Quaglio, Tomas Baravalle, Filippo Alongi, Irné Herbst; Eli Snyman, Alberto Sgarbi; Manuel Zuliani, Giovanni Pettinelli.

Replacements: Corniel Els, Thomas Gallo, Tiziano Pasquali, Nicola Piantella, Marco Barbini, Luca Petrozzi, Tommaso Benvenuti, Leonardo Sarto.

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Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

About the author:

Ciarán Kennedy

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