As expected, Head Coach Johann van Graan names a much-changed side for the Guinness PRO14 Interprovincial against Ulster on New Year’s Day at Kingspan Stadium (5.35pm).
In making 11 changes to the starting XV that suffered defeat to Leinster in Thomond Park four days ago, James Cronin, Niall Scannell and John Ryan start together in the front row for the first time this season.
Darren O’Shea joins Billy Holland in the second row with Holland taking over the captaincy duties for his 16th successive start in this campaign.
Tommy O’Donnell is the other forward to retain his place as he makes the positional switch to blindside for the round 12 encounter with Cloete returning to openside and Jack O’Donoghue starting at 8.
Keith Earls has recovered from illness to be named in the backline and joins Sammy Arnold in forming a new midfield pairing for the province, with Arnold switching to inside centre this week and Earls outside him.
With Alex Wootton again on the left wing, the academy’s Calvin Nash starts on the opposite flank for his first start of the season, and Simon Zebo completes the back three at fullback.
Duncan Williams and JJ Hanrahan form the half back pairing.
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) December 30, 2017
Named in the replacements is winger Ronan O’Mahony who has successfully rehabbed the fractured fibula sustained against Treviso last April to be included in his first match-day squad of the season.
If sprung from the bench, Jeremy Loughman, who was previously capped with Leinster, will make his Munster PRO14 debut in Belfast.
Munster: Simon Zebo; Calvin Nash, Keith Earls, Sammy Arnold, Alex Wootton; JJ Hanrahan, Duncan Williams; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Darren O’Shea, Billy Holland (c); Tommy O’Donnell, Chris Cloete, Jack O’Donoghue.
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Rory Loughman, Stephen Archer, Fineen Wycherley, Robin Copeland, James Hart, Bill Johnston, Ronan O’Mahony.
Ulster have also named their team as they look to stay ahead of Edinburgh in Conference B.
🔊 TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT
— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) December 30, 2017