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Munster look to make most of big crowd in Limerick for Castres clash

Johann van Graan’s side are still bouncing from their rousing win over Wasps.

A Munster crowd at Thomond Park.
A Munster crowd at Thomond Park.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

THOSE LUCKY ENOUGH to be in Thomond Park tonight will relish getting to be part of the last big Irish sporting crowd until the end of January, at the earliest.

Munster have sold around 20,000 tickets for this evening’s Champions Cup clash [KO 8pm, BT Sport] and it will be the biggest crowd at the Limerick venue in nearly two years.

It will also be a while before we get a gathering of rugby fans as big as this in Ireland.

Sadly, Munster must now go about refunding all but 5,000 of the 25,600 people who were due to attend their inter-provincial clash with Leinster at this same venue on St Stephen’s Day. It’s a miserably bitter pill for the province to swallow in a financial sense – to the tune of close to €1 million – as well as everything else.

So there will be a great determination to wring every bit of joy out of this evening’s clash with Castres, particularly given that there were concerns about the fixture going ahead at one stage early yesterday.

Fortunately, the French government’s tightened restrictions on travel apply only to the UK, so Castres were free to fly out to Ireland for this meeting with a Munster team who will still be bouncing from last weekend’s rousing win over Wasps.

It’s not quite as exciting a Munster selection – there were 12 debutants last week – but the returning senior players who finished self-isolation last weekend will be keen to make an impact after the young guns impressed last time out.

Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Jean Kleyn, and Jack O’Donoghue all return to the starting pack to add experience, while 22-year-old Ben Healy gets his latest start at out-half following Joey Carbery’s fractured elbow against Wasps. 

With Carbery also now likely to miss the start of the Six Nations for Ireland, Healy will be ambitious about getting on a strong run of form.

jason-jenkins Jason Jenkins is set for his Munster debut off the bench. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Two of last weekend’s most impressive young performers are retained in the Munster XV, with 19-year-old Patrick Campbell starting at fullback again after scoring a lovely try on debut against Wasps, while 22-year-old openside John Hodnett is in the number seven shirt having delivered a seriously impactful performance in Coventry.

There is a further sprinkling of youth on the Munster bench with hooker Diarmuid Barron, tighthead prop Keynan Knox, out-half Jack Crowley, and back row Alex Kendellen – still in the academy – all set for their European debuts as replacements.

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There will also finally be a debut for 26-year-old South African lock Jason Jenkins, a once-capped Springbok who has had to deal with injury issues after joining from Japanese club rugby this season.

22-year-old Josh Wycherley is another to get a chance to play off the bench, which is completed by the returning Craig Casey.

Castres, meanwhile, have made seven changes after last weekend’s 20-18 home defeat to Harlequins, with Bastien Guillemin coming in on the wing, Wayan de Benedittis starting at loosehead, Wilfrid Hounkpatin at tighthead, Loic Jacquet coming in as captain in the second row, and Simon Meka and Kevin Kornath getting the nod in the back row.

Santiago Arata also swaps in for Rory Kockott at scrum-half, although we will hopefully get Peter O’Mahony’s latest run-in with the fiery Kockott at some stage.

Castres have been going well in the Top 14 and sit sixth after 12 rounds of domestic action but this Munster team bolstered by returning senior players should have too much quality for them in front of a big crowd in Limerick.

Munster:

  • 15. Patrick Campbell
  • 14. Andrew Conway
  • 13. Chris Farrell
  • 12. Damian de Allende
  • 11. Keith Earls
  • 10. Ben Healy
  • 9. Conor Murray
  • 1. Dave Kilcoyne
  • 2. Niall Scannell
  • 3. John Ryan
  • 4. Jean Kleyn
  • 5. Tadhg Beirne
  • 6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
  • 7. John Hodnett
  • 8. Jack O’Donoghue

Replacements:

  • 16. Diarmuid Barron
  • 17. Josh Wycherley
  • 18. Keynan Knox
  • 19. Jason Jenkins
  • 20. Jack O’Sullivan
  • 21. Craig Casey
  • 22. Jack Crowley
  • 23. Alex Kendellen

Castres:

  • 15. Thomas Larregain
  • 14. Bastien Guillemin
  • 13. Thomas Combezou
  • 12. Pierre Aguillon
  • 11. Filipo Nakosi
  • 10. Benjamin Urdapilleta
  • 9. Santiago Arata Perrone
  • 1. Wayan de Benedittis
  • 2. Paula Ngauamo
  • 3. Wilfrid Hounkpatin
  • 4. Loic Jacquet (captain)
  • 5. Théo Hannoyer
  • 6. Nick Champion de Crespigny
  • 7. Simon Meka
  • 8. Kevin Kornath
Replacements:
  • 16. Brice Humbert
  • 17. Julius Nostadt
  • 18. Antoine Guillamon
  • 19. Jack Whetton
  • 20. Mateaki Kafatolu
  • 21. Rory Kockott
  • 22. Louis Le Brun
  • 23. Antoine Zeghdar

Referee: Matt Carley [RFU].

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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