MUNSTER head Coach Anthony Foley has named a strong side to face Cardiff Blues on Saturday night in Cork (kick off 7.30pm, live on TG4), including Denis Hurley as captain and the international duo of Ian Keatley and Keith Earls.
Currently in his ninth season with Munster, Denis Hurley signed a one-year contract extension in January that will see him remain with the province until June 2016. The Cork-man captains the side for the first time on his 145th appearance.
Meanwhile academy player Jack O’Donoghue will make his first PRO12 start for the province.
In the front row John Ryan and BJ Botha start on either side of Eusebio Guinazu. Botha is set to make his 90th appearance in the red of Munster while the versatile Guinazu makes his first start as hooker.
The experienced local duo of Donncha O’Callaghan and Billy Holland make up the second row with blindside Sean Dougall and openside Dave O’Callaghan joining academy number 8 Jack O’Donoghue in the back row. Having already made two PRO12 appearances this season – against Zebre and Ospreys – O’Donoghue penned a three year deal in January which will see him advance to development status for season 2015/16 and full contract status from 2016/17.
Following his involvement in last weekend’s 6 Nations victory over Italy Ian Keatley has been made available to the province this weekend and will partner Duncan Williams in the half-backs.
Keith Earls is another international representative available for selection and the Limerick native will join captain Denis Hurley in the midfield.
JJ Hanrahan starts at full-back for the third time this season with Ronan O’Mahony and Andrew Conwayon the left and right wing respectively.
After successfully rehabbing a knee injury sustained against Clermont Auvergne at Thomond Park in December, Dave Kilcoyne is named amongst the replacements, as are academy centre Rory Scannell and Garryowen scrum-half Neil Cronin, both of whom are in contention to make their second senior appearances for the province this weekend.
Munster: JJ Hanrahan; Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Denis Hurley Capt., Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; John Ryan, Eusebio Guinazu, BJ Botha; Donncha O’Callaghan, Billy Holland; Sean Dougall, Dave O’Callaghan, Jack O’Donoghue.
Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Shane Buckley, Paddy Butler, Neil Cronin, Rory Scannell, Ivan Dineen.