Dan Sheridan/INPHO Peter O'Mahony and Munster have a huge challenge ahead.

Dublin-born Brennan part of Toulouse squad aiming to maul Munster

Graham Rowntree’s side have momentum but face a difficult task at Stade Ernest Wallon.

HE WAS BORN in Dublin and his dad, Trevor, was an Ireland international but there’s no doubt that Josh Brennan is aiming for Test rugby in a blue jersey.

Trevor joined Toulouse the year after Josh was born, meaning that Josh has spent pretty much his whole life in France. The 21-year-old second row has already captained the French U20s team and is now rated as a prospect for senior caps.

Brennan has emerged with Toulouse over the past three seasons, making eight starts in the Top 14 during the current campaign and he recently signed a new contract with the club that runs until 2026. His dad, a club legend in Toulouse, even featured in the video reveal for that deal. Josh’s older brother, Dan, might be with Brive now but the Brennans are very much part of the fabric of Stade Toulousain. Younger brother Bobby is also part of the club’s underage set-up.

Josh is on the bench for Toulouse in today’s final Champions Cup pool clash with Munster at Stade Ernest Wallon [KO 3.15pm, BT Sport], with the home side aiming to make it four wins from four and secure home advantage for the knock-out stages. A bonus-point win could even see Toulouse finish Pool B as top seeds.

Brennan has already featured in the home and away wins against Sale, so will hope for another substantial outing in what is set to be his first game against Irish opposition at professional level.

Whatever about the Irish interest off Toulouse’s bench, their starting pack is impressive on paper. Grand Slam-winning French hooker Julien Marchand is a huge threat to Munster’s breakdown, loosehead prop Cyril Baille is a baller as well as a brawler, Englishman Jack Willis has added more nous since joining in November, and there is a mammoth lock pairing of Richie Arnold and Emmanuel Meafou – an Aussie who is France’s radar but will have to wait until the end of this year for his French passport. 

The Toulouse backs? Decent. Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack aren’t the worst halfback pairing, while goal-kicking fullback Melvyn Jaminet is now back from injury. Being able to call on Italy sensation Ange Capuozzo off the bench is quite the luxury.

antoine-dupont James Crombie / INPHO Toulouse's array of stars includes captain Antoine Dupont. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

As well as being 100% in Europe so far, Toulouse are leading the Top 14. They have lost four games – including away to La Rochelle two weekends ago when they rested some key men – but those defeats have all come away from home. 

So this is quite the ask for Graham Rowntree’s Munster, who do bring their own momentum into this tie. It’s not accurate to say they have nothing to lose – Champions Cup knock-out rugby has already been secured but a bonus-point win, as unlikely as it seems, could see them claim a home round-of-16 tie. Munster could also travel to Saracens or the Sharks depending on how today’s results go.

Underdog status will suit Munster just fine. Peter O’Mahony and co. love little more than upsetting the odds.

Rowntree has pretty much stuck to his guns in terms of selection as Keith Earls remains outside the matchday 23, although Conor Murray returns on the bench. The latter’s experience could be important if this is tight in the endgame.

It’s Craig Casey who starts at scrum-half again and it would be a surprise if Munster don’t persist with their new-found intent to play at high tempo, use their forwards’ passing skills, and explore any opportunities in wide channels. With a creative midfield pairing of Jack Crowley and Antoine Frisch, that’s what suits this Munster side.

Joey Carbery gets an opportunity to remind Andy Farrell and everyone else of what he can do at number 10 just a few days after being left out of Ireland’s Six Nations squad. He must be more motivated than ever after that surprise decision.

munsters-joey-carbery Billy Stickland / INPHO Joey Carbery starts at 10 again for Munster. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

The ability of Munster’s pack to go toe-to-toe with the powerful, smart Toulouse forwards will be key. Rowntree’s side don’t focus exclusively on trying to smother their opposition at all times, but scrum, lineout, and maul remain pivotal for any ambitious team. 

John Ryan comes into the starting XV to lend more experience at tighthead and the only other change sees the in-form flanker John Hodnett given the nod in place of the suspended Jack O’Donoghue. Hodnett’s high-energy approach should suit what is expected to be an entertaining affair in cold conditions in Toulouse.

With five wins in their last six games, Munster feel they have turned a corner. If they can pull off a shock today, the rest of the world will be convinced too.

Even if it’s not to be a famous victory on the road, Rowntree will want to see more of the good stuff from recent weeks.

 Stade Toulousain:

  • 15. Melvyn Jaminet
  • 14. Juan Cruz Mallía
  • 13. Pierre-Louis Barassi
  • 12. Pita Ahki
  • 11. Dimitri Delibes
  • 10. Romain Ntamack
  • 9. Antoine Dupont (captain)
  • 1. Cyril Baille
  • 2. Julien Marchand
  • 3. Dorian Aldegheri
  • 4. Richie Arnold
  • 5. Emmanuel Meafou
  • 6. Anthony Jelonch
  • 7. Jack Willis
  • 8. Alexandre Roumat


  • 16. Guillaume Cramont
  • 17. Rodrigue Neti
  • 18. David Ainu’u
  • 19. Thibaud Flament
  • 20. Joshua Brennan
  • 21. Francois Cros
  • 22. Ange Capuozzo
  • 23. Arthur Retière


  • 15. Mike Haley
  • 14. Calvin Nash
  • 13. Antoine Frisch
  • 12. Jack Crowley
  • 11. Shane Daly
  • 10. Joey Carbery
  • 9. Craig Casey
  • 1. Dave Kilcoyne
  • 2. Niall Scannell
  • 3. John Ryan
  • 4. Jean Kleyn
  • 5. Tadhg Beirne
  • 6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
  • 7. John Hodnett
  • 8. Gavin Coombes


  • 16. Diarmuid Barron
  • 17. Josh Wycherley
  • 18. Roman Salanoa
  • 19. Jack O’Sullivan
  • 20. Alex Kendellen
  • 21. Conor Murray
  • 22. Ben Healy
  • 23. Malakai Fekitoa

Referee: Karl Dickson [RFU].

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