Munster make 12 changes for Zebre clash at Thomond Park

Gerbrandt Grobler could make his competitive Munster debut against Zebre. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

MUNSTER have named their team for Saturday’s Guinness Pro14 game with Zebre at Thomond Park.

Billy Holland, Simon Zebo and Jean Kleyn are the only ones to remain from the team that beat Castres in the Champions Cup. Holland captains the side from second-row.

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Perhaps the biggest talking point of the match day squad is the selection of Gerbrandt Grobler on the replacements bench.

There has been plenty of debate recently as to whether the South African should be allowed ply his trade in Ireland, but Munster have backed him with by releasing a statement along with the team that reads.

“In relation to Gerbrandt Grobler’s selection for the province, Munster Rugby and the IRFU wish to reiterate that Gerbrandt, as a member of the Munster squad and living by our values, will continue to be considered for selection during his time with the province, once deemed fit.

“While some hold the view that rugby should provide no road-back for those that have taken a banned substance in the past, it would not be within the spirit and values of rugby to turn its back on every person that ever made a bad decision, having made restitution.

“Irish Rugby is recognised as operating one of the most stringent testing environments of any rugby nation with a zero tolerance approach to doping in the sport. The province and Irish Rugby are fully supportive of all WADA and World Rugby anti-doping policies.

“Gerbrandt Grobler served a two-year ban from rugby and returned to play for Racing 92 in November 2016 as per the process set out by World Rugby.”

Elsewhere, Scrum-half Duncan Williams makes his 150th Munster appearance and is partnered in the half-backs by JJ Hanrahan.

Don Goggin makes his first start of the season and is joined by Sammy Arnold in the centre after he completed his three-week suspension following a sending off against his former province Ulster.

The back three is made up of Zebo, Darren Sweetnam and Alex Wootton. The latter has been in sparkling form this season and is Munster’s leading try scorer.

James Cronin returns from international duty to start at loosehead prop with Niall Scannell at hooker and Brian Scott at tighthead.

Kleyn partners Holland in the second-row with Jack O’Donoghue, Conor Oliver and Robin Copeland making up the back row.

John Ryan is among the replacements having featured in Ireland’s dramatic win over France in the 6 Nations last week with Ian Keatley and Rory Scannell also back from international duty.

Dave O’Callaghan could also make his first team return from the bench after several months out due to injury.

MUNSTER: Simon Zebo; Darren Sweetnam, Sammy Arnold, Dan Goggin, Alex Wootton; JJ Hanrahan, Duncan Williams; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, Brian Scott; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland; Jack O’Donoghue, Conor Oliver, Robin Copeland. Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Jeremy Loughman, John Ryan, Gerbrandt Grobler, Dave O’Callaghan, John Poland, Ian Keatley, Rory Scannell.