Tuesday 16 July 2019

O'Callaghan backs 'leader' O'Donoghue to hit big time

Jack O'Donoghue
Jack O'Donoghue
David Kelly

David Kelly

MUNSTER veteran Donncha O'Callaghan has hailed back-row tyro Jack O'Donoghue as a star of the future as the Waterford-born Academy starlet continues to impress.

The bustling No 8 finished one of the scintillating trio of tries that downed Cardiff in Irish Independent Park last weekend, and O'Callaghan believes there is more to come from one of the province's brightest prospects.

"He's great, he's super around the environment and he's a leader already," declares the 35-year-old second-row.

"He's bringing on the guys in the Academy with him, his mates that he's hung around with, they've seen him make it and they'll think 'Jack's made the jump so I can too'.

"That's great - I remember for us when Peter Stringer started to get picked and a few of us said 'if Strings is getting picked then I can put my hand up too'.


"You can't beat that, the home-grown guys that care. Rugby in many places is turning into a budget game but as long as we've got guys that care we'll be alright."

Munster will be strengthened by the availability of a slew of fringe Six Nations stars this weekend as Anthony Foley makes eight changes to considerably strengthen his resources for the trip to an always dangerous Scarlets' side for the Sky Sports clash (2.40).

Tommy O'Donnell, Felix Jones and Ian Keatley - who was a late withdrawal last week due to illness - all return to the side.

Andrew Conway has also overcome the flu and resumes his place on the wing, and the squad has been further boosted by the return of CJ Stander from the injury sustained at the latter end of his side's doomed European campaign.

There is a new front-row in Dave Kilcoyne, Kevin O'Byrne and Stephen Archer, while the other changes to the pack see O'Donnell and Stander join Dave O'Callaghan in the back-row.

Keatley resumes his partnership with Duncan Williams in the half-backs, while captain Denis Hurley and Keith Earls remain in situ, with Conway and Jones joining Luke O'Dea in the back three

Scarlets, fresh from a thumping bonus-point win against Connacht which saw them strengthen their claims for a European berth after drawing level with the flailing Westerners, unsurprisingly decide to go with an unchanged side.

Ken Owens will lead a side seeking to preserve a decent unbeaten home record in the Pro12; they haven't lost at home in the league since late 2013.

Munster's most recent West Wales coup was the 17-14 European success in 2011.

Rhys Priestland, Gareth Davies and Rob Evans are on the replacements bench having been released by Wales camp.

"Munster have a good record which we know about and they are near top of the table," says their head coach Wayne Pivac.

"They'll bring a different threat from Connacht and across the board are slightly stronger.

"We need to back up the performance on the weekend and make sure it's not a one-off."

Verdict: Munster

Scarlets - J Williams; H Robinson, R King, H Parkes, M Tagicakibau; S Shingler, A Davies; P John, K Owens (capt), P Edwards, L Rawlins, J Snyman, A Shingler, J Davies, J Barclay. Reps: R Elias, R Evans, J Adriaanse, G Earle, R McCusker, G Davies, R Priestland, A Warren.

Munster - F Jones; A Conway, K Earls, D Hurley capt, L O'Dea; I Keatley, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, K O'Byrne, S Archer, D O'Callaghan, B Holland, D O'Callaghan, T O'Donnell, CJ Stander. Reps: E Guinazu, J Ryan, BJ Botha, J O'Donoghue, P Butler, N Cronin, JJ Hanrahan, I Dineen.

ref - D Phillips (IRFU)

Scarlets v Munster,

Live, Sky Sports 3, 2.40

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