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Changes on the cards for Munster before return leg with Clermont

Injuries at loosehead prop and on the wing mean Anthony Foley may have to alter his starting XV.

Paul O'Connell  at Munster training in UL yesterday.
Paul O'Connell at Munster training in UL yesterday.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

MUNSTER’S ANTHONY FOLEY has refused to rule props Dave Kilcoyne and James Cronin out of Sunday’s Champions Cup meeting with Clermont, while he is hopeful that Robin Copeland will recover to add ball-carrying dynamism to his squad.

Kilcoyne was helped off at Thomond Park last weekend after suffering a knee injury, making him a major doubt for the return meeting with Clermont. Replacement loosehead James Cronin was also injured, sustaining a heavy blow to his shoulder.

Head coach Foley was coy on the injury situation yesterday evening in Limerick, stating that his two leading looseheads still have a chance of being involved in the Auvergne this weekend.

It’s ongoing,” said Foley. “It’s never good to see a player leave the pitch and Dave was in a bit of distress. The scans have been done, the specialists have had a look at them and we’re just waiting for the reports to come back on those players.”

Should both of the Ireland-capped duo fail to recover, Foley will be left with a choice between 26-year-old John Ryan and Argentinian Eusebio Guiñazú for the number one shirt.

Ryan has never started a Champions Cup game for the province, while 32-year-old Guiñazú is better known as a hooker and last lined out at loosehead in 2012 for the Pumas.

Gerhard van den Heever’s knee injury could mean a return to the starting XV for Andrew Conway, who was demoted to the ‘A’ team last weekend. However, Foley said he will also consider Ronan O’Mahony and Johne Murphy on the right wing, the latter having been used off the bench in Limerick.

Andrew Conway Andrew Conway may be in line for a return to the starting XV. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Explosive back row Copeland is also pushing for selection in the matchday squad as his recovery from a knee issue continues. The Wexford native was injured during a man-of-the-match performance against Ulster late last month.

“He trained with the physios today [Wednesday], same as he did last week,” said Foley of Copeland. “Unfortunately for Robin last week in our second training session, he banged his knee off the ground and had to pull out.

That was unfortunate for that to happen so late, so hopefully this week we can get him there.”

Andrew Smith missed out last weekend with a knee injury, allowing recent South African signing Pat Howard to deliver a promisingly physical showing. Still, there was a distinct lack of inventiveness in the Munster attack, which may mean a more substantial role for JJ Hanrahan.

The 22-year-old centre, linked with a move away from the province next season, was curiously not used as a replacement in the defeat to Clermont, but could offer attacking intelligence outside Ian Keatley in the Munster backline.

Foley has not started Keatley and Hanrahan as a midfield playmaking pairing yet in this campaign, despite hints that he was considering such a move during the pre-season.

What starting team would you like to see Foley opt for this weekend? Does Hanrahan need to be involved?

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Murray Kinsella

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