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How are Munster shaping up for their Champions Cup clash with Wasps?

The southern province have some highly experienced players available.

Daniel Okeke, Patrick Campbell, and Scott Buckley.
Daniel Okeke, Patrick Campbell, and Scott Buckley.

Updated Dec 4th 2021, 9:33 PM

THERE WAS GOOD NEWS for Munster this week with the return to full training of Ireland international centre Chris Farrell.

With 33 of their players currently isolating in Ireland and South Africa, the southern province need as many fit bodies as possible.

Farrell hasn’t played at all so far this season but he is now set to go straight into European action next weekend.

In a further positive, tighthead prop Roman Salanoa is nearing a return to fitness as Munster hope to get him back from a knee injury in time to feature against Wasps in the Champions Cups on Sunday 12 December at the Coventry Building Society Arena.

Academy fullback/wing Jonathan Wren’s return to full training wouldn’t always be as crucial but he too comes into the mix for the Wasps game after recovering from a leg injury.

As has been well-flagged this week, Munster have had a group of senior international players and a crop of young academy players – as well as other promising youngers from within the provincial pipeline – training in Limerick under academy boss Ian Costello as they prepare for the Wasps game.

There is still some hope that some of the players who arrived back from South Africa on Wednesday will be able to finish their mandatory self-isolation the day before the Wasps game and potentially feature, but Munster have had to plan for that not being the case.

It’s fortunate that Ireland internationals Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Tadhg Beirne, Keith Earls, Dave Kilcoyne, and Andrew Conway were not in South Africa, having had a week off following the Autumn Nations Series in national team camp.

Springboks centre Damian de Allende has also been training with them in Limerick this week after his return from Test action, so Munster will have a crop of very experienced operators against Wasps, with Farrell’s return a further boost in this regard.

chris-farrell Chris Farrell is set for his return against Wasps. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

They have been looking at young academy players to fill in the blanks, with EPCR’s confirmation that Munster and other clubs can register additional players to their Champions Cup squads until Wednesday a great boost in this regard.

With lots of senior back three players missing, it’s understood that Patrick Campbell, a recent addition to the Munster academy, has been at fullback in training this week. The former Cork minor footballer is talented and has shone for Young Munster in the AIL early on this season. He or Wren could get a huge chance at 15 against Wasps.

Elsewhere in the backline, Munster look like having their first-choice 9-10-11-12-13-14 available in Murray, Carbery, Earls, de Allende, Farrell, and Conway. 

Loosehead Kilcoyne is the only experienced senior front row currently guaranteed to be available to Munster for the clash in Coventry. 

At hooker, Munster may have to pick between Declan Moore, an unheralded Irish-qualified recruit from Australia, and academy man Scott Buckley, who is also understood to have trained in the back row this week – having played there for Munster A this season.

Salanoa being match fit would be a big boost at tighthead, where Munster could also pick academy props Mark Donnelly or James French, who is better known as a loosehead but is understood to have trained at tighthead recently.

In the second row, Beirne could be partnered by Waterford man Eoin O’Connor, whose fellow academy locks Paddy Kelly and Edwin Odogbo are currently sidelined with l0ng-term injuries.

The back row will obviously include captain O’Mahony, who could be joined by the powerful academy prospect Daniel Okeke, an impressive performer for the Ireland U20s earlier this year. 

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ian-costello Ian Costello is running Munster's prep for the Wasps game. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

As mentioned above, Buckley can play in the back row although Munster have been looking for reinforcements in this area.

The province have been speaking to a number of All-Ireland League players and, again, the extension of the registration window for their European squad is great news in that regard.

If none of their senior players can get out of self-isolation to feature against Wasps, the Munster bench will have a particularly inexperienced but exciting look to it.

New academy out-half Tony Butler will hope to feature, as will his fellow Ennis man Ethan Coughlan, a scrum-half who is also now part of the academy.

Academy wing Conor Philips is in Dubai with an Ireland 7s development team but should be back in Ireland in time to potentially feature for Munster.

Of course, Munster will hope to have some of their senior players out of self-isolation and free to feature against Wasps, while they will continue to explore the possibility of bringing in players from the AIL and elsewhere before the registration deadline on Wednesday. 

The situation is constantly in flux but whatever happens next, there is no doubt it will be an intriguing matchday 23 that Munster name for the clash with Wasps next weekend.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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