Jack O’Donoghue to lead Munster on Ulster odyssey 


MUNSTER have released their team for Sunday’s important URC clash with Ulster at the Kingspan on New Year’s Day, kick-off 5.15pm.

Jack O’Donoghue captains a side that shows six personnel changes and two positional switches to the team that faced Leinster on St Stephen’s Day.

Mike Haley, Malakai Fekitoa and Paddy Patterson come into the backline with Shane Daly moving from full-back to wing and Jack Crowley moving from inside-centre to out-half.

In the pack, Scottish international Kiran McDonald makes his first URC start as Roman Salanoa and Alex Kendellen also come into the starting XV. 

Haley returns from injury to start at full-back with Daly and Keith Earls completing the back three.

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Fekitoa and Antoine Frisch start in the centres for the first time as Fekitoa makes his first appearance since the win over South Africa A last month.

Patterson and Crowley team up in the half-backs for the first time since the clash against Ulster at Thomond Park in October.

Salanoa joins Dave Kilcoyne and Niall Scannell in the front row with Jean Kleyn and McDonald starting together in the second row for the first time.

O’Donoghue, Kendellen and Gavin Coombes complete the selection. 

Munster are currently in need of points in this competition as standings at the end of it will determine qualifiers for next season’s Heineken Cup.

Ahead of the journey to Belfast, Head Coach Graham Rowntree said: “We’re going in the right direction but respectful that we’ve got to win. We’ve got to win.”

He added: “It’s a big game that’s in front of us and it’s a special kind of trip. I keep saying to the lads when I look back on my career, big wins on the road were what made it special for me. As much as we’re spoiled with our fabulous home support, getting a gritty win away from home like we did at Northampton, they’re extra-special memories for me.”

Munster: Mike Haley; Shane Daly, Antoine Frisch, Malakai Fekitoa, Keith Earls; Jack Crowley, Paddy Patterson; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Roman Salanoa; Jean Kleyn, Kiran McDonald; Jack O’Donoghue (captain), Alex Kendellen, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Scott Buckley, Josh Wycherley, Stephen Archer, Cian Hurley, Jack O’Sullivan, Conor Murray, Ben Healy, Patrick Campbell.