Monday 18 December 2017

Coughlan to get the nod as O'Leary ruled out for two months

Hugh Farrelly

JAMES COUGHLAN is in line to start at No 8 for Munster when they kick off their Heineken Cup campaign against London Irish in Reading tomorrow.

Munster announce their team at noon today and it appears that Coughlan, who started at No 8 in the semi-final defeat to Biarritz last season, may be selected in the middle of the back row, with stand-in captain Denis Leamy switching to the blindside flank at the expense of Alan Quinlan.

Peter Stringer will be at scrum-half after Munster confirmed yesterday that Tomas O'Leary will be out for up to eight weeks with a thumb injury. O'Leary had an operation earlier this week and is now likely to miss the November international series. Duncan Williams provides cover for Stringer on the bench tomorrow.

return

Tony Buckley, who missed the Leinster match with a virus, is available again for a return to the side alongside Damien Varley and Wian du Preez in the front-row, with Donnacha Ryan and Donncha O'Callaghan the likely second-row partnership.

Keith Earls looks like a natural replacement for the suspended Lifeimi Mafi at centre after his welcome return from injury, while Denis Hurley, yet to start for Munster this season, may come into the back three.

Coach Tony McGahan has several options, with Hurley able to play at full-back or wing and new recruit Johne Murphy impressing at centre and on the left wing this season.

There will be a minute's silence before tomorrow's match to mark the death of former Munster and Ireland second-row Moss Keane and Munster also confirmed that they will not be appealing Mafi's seven-week suspension.

MUNSTER (possible) -- P Warwick/J Murphy; D Howlett, K Earls, S Tuitupou, J Murphy/D Hurley; R O'Gara, P Stringer; W du Preez, D Varley, T Buckley; D O'Callaghan, D Ryan; D Leamy (capt), N Ronan, J Coughlan.

Irish Independent

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