The playing options at Munster's disposal ahead of new season

Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent


Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent


The playing options at Munster's disposal ahead of new season


John Ryan

Ryan penned a three-year deal with Munster last January which will see the prop remain at the province until June 2019 at least.

The lengthy contract was a major vote of confidence in the 28-year-old who played 25 times for Munster last season. BJ Botha's departure from Munster this summer leaves Ryan in the box seat to be starting tighthead this season although the arrival of John Andress - plus an injure-free Stephen Archer - will add significantly to the competition.

John Andress

The 32-year-old Andress joined Munster this summer from Edinburgh where he made 51 appearances to help fill the void left by BJ Botha's departure. The Ireland A and U-21 international will look to make a big early impression.

Starts out behind John Ryan in the pecking order, but will hope to force his way into Rassie Erasmus' starting team.

Stephen Archer

Archer made just nine appearances for Munster last season, after sustaining a neck injury against Glasgow in October 2015. The 28-year-old returned to action in March against Dragons where he won his 100th cap.

This is a big season for Archer who will hoping to secure regular game time in the marquee Champions Cup fixtures.

James Cronin

The 26-year-old played 23 times for Munster last season, including 11 starts. The impressive form saw the loosehead included the Ireland squad for the 2016 RBS 6 Nations where he featured off the bench against France.

Cronin, who will remain at Munster until at least June 2019 after signing a three-year extension, is set for another battle with Dave Kilcoyne over the starting loosehead position.

Dave Kilcoyne

Prop Kilcoyne played in 26 of Munster's 28 competitive games last season, clearly demonstrating just what a key member of the squad the 27-year-old remains.

Kilcoyne's excellent form earned him a call-up for Ireland's summer tour to South Africa. Will battle with James Cronin for the number one jersey.

Peter McCabe

The 24-year-old began a one-year Development contract in June 2015 and subsequently signed a contract extension for this season.   A pectoral tear saw the prop miss much of last season but following his return, he impressed in both club action for Dolphin and for Munster A in the British and Irish Cup.

A used replacement against Worcester last weekend, McCabe will be aiming to make his Pro12 bow this season.


Mike Sherry

News last week that hooker Sherry has undergone a procedure on his back and will be side-lined for approximately three to four months was another reminder of just how cruel professional sport can be at times.

After enduring a lengthy lay-off with a shoulder injury, Sherry bounced back superbly last season making 24 out of 28 appearances for the province.

He was firmly established at Munster's first choice starting hooker and would have been looking forward to progressing further this term.

Last January, the 28-year-old Limerickman signed a two-year contract extension that will see him remain with Munster until at least June 2018.

Niall Scannell

2015/16 proved to be a breakthrough season for the former Ireland U-20 captain.Scannell he made 23 appearances, starting 10 games, including a European debut against Leicester Tigers at Thomond Park.

The 24-year-old is in pole position to be Munster's starting hooker through the opening months of the season following confirmation that Mike Sherry is set for an extended spell on the sidelines.

Joined by his brother Rory in the starting line-up, the Scannells become the first set of brothers to start for Munster in the PRO12 in December’s clash away to Newport-Gwent Dragons.

Duncan Casey

The 25-year-old ruptured his pectoral muscle against Treviso at Thomond Park in last November and after undergoing surgery, the Shannon clubman spent much of the 2015/16 season rehabbing. 

Mike Sherry's unfortunate injury problems provide Casey with an opportunity to gain gametime through the opening months of the season. Looks to be behind Niall Scannell at the moment.

Kevin O'Byrne

O'Byrne made just one appearance for Munster in the Pro12 last season, having featured 11 times, including six starts, in the league the previous season.

The unfortunate injury to Mike Sherry will provide UL-Bohs clubman O'Byrne with an opportunity to earn more game-time during the opening games of the new season. Appears to be behind Niall Scannell and Duncan Casey



Donnacha Ryan

After enduring a frustrating 12-month period on the sidelines due to a toe injury which ended in March 2015, second-row Ryan enjoyed a better run of luck last season.

The 32-year-old made 12 appearances for Munster last term and also featured for Ireland in the Rugby World Cup, 6 Nations and summer tour to South Africa.

Ryan remains a first choice starting option in the Munster engine room. An injury free season could well make him a viable option to tour New Zealand with the Lions next summer.

Jean Kleyn

With uncertainity over a possible return date for former Wallaby Mark Chisholm, Munster moved to acquire the services of South African second row Kleyn.

The 23-year-old made 17 appearances with the Stormers and represented Western Province on 22 occasions. Made his first appearance against Worcester last weekend and could be a big player for Munster this season.

Dave Foley

Foley, now 28, featured heavily for Munster last season, making 25 appearances and winning inclusion in the Ireland training squad for Round 3 of the 6 Nations. Will look to push on this season and cement his place as a starting second-row through marquee Pro12 and Champions Cup fixtures. Jean Kleyn's arrival adds to competition.

Mark Chisholm

Chisholm, who turns 35 next month, has not featured for the province since March after requiring an extended break from the game for a concussion he sustained against Newport-Gwent Dragons.

Munster seem unsure as to when the 58-time capped Wallaby will make his return to competitive action and recently signed South African lock Jean Kleyn.

Billy Holland

Holland played 18 times for Munster last season, making 14 starts. The 31-year-old captained the side on seven occasions and was nominated for Munster Player of the Year for the second consecutive year. Holland also skipped Munster on Friday against Worcester, an indication of the faith the recently-arrived Rassie Erasmus has in him.  Will be anxious to cement himself as a first choice starter in the months ahead.

Darren O'Shea

O'Shea has returned to Munster this summer after signing a two-year contract. O'Shea moved to Worcester Warriors at the start of the 2014/15 season after completing one year in the Munster Academy.

The 23-year-old is a product of the provincial age-grades and has previously featured for Munster 'A' in the British and Irish Cup.

John Madigan

Madigan, who turns 22 this Thursday, is a product of the Munster Youths system and has started his first senior contract this season. The second-row made his Pro12 debut v Treviso in Musgrave Park last September.  A month later he sustained a knee injury while playing for his club side Dolphin RFC and underwent surgery ruling him out for the remainder of last season. Madigan is on a development contract this season.

Sean McCarthy

McCarthy, 23, made his Pro12 debut coming off the bench against Cardiff Blues last March. Two months later the Shannon clubman was nominated for Academy Player of the Year. McCarthy is moving up the Munster senior squad for the first time this season and will be looking to add to his number of first team appearances in the coming months.


CJ Stander

What a season CJ Stander had in 2015-2016. The South African-born powerhouse was appointed Munster captain last November with Peter O'Mahony sidelined through injury.

An international debut followed  in the 6 Nations in February after he became Irish qualified. Went on to scoop several top awards, including the IRUPA Players' Player of the Year, the the Supporters' Player of the Year as well as the Munster Rugby Player of the Year award for the second year in succession.

The 26-year-old will look to reach similiar heights on the pitch this term and relieved of the captaincy duties, a degree of pressure is set to be lifted from his shoulders.

Could he be a contender for the Lions?

Peter O'Mahony

O'Mahony will be like a new signing for Munster when he returns to the starting line-up in the coming weeks after missing all of last term  due to a serious knee injury.

O'Mahony's last outing for Munster was the Pro12 semi-final play-off against Ospreys in May 2015 - some 17 months ago. He missed the funal with Glasgow due to a hip injury.

The 26-year-old, due to return to action later this month, has been given a confidence boost by new Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus by being awarded the captaincy role.

O'Mahony will hope that an injury free run with Munster through September and October helps him regain his place in the Irish squad for the autumn internationals. And then beyond that there is a Lions tour to New Zealand next summer.

Robin Copeland

Featuring in 27 of Munster's 28 competitive games, Copeland made the most appearances in 2015/16, scoring three tries.

The back-rower was rewarded with a new contract which will see him remain at the province until June 2018. O'Mahony’s return from injury in the coming weeks will add significantly to competition for back-row places.

Dave O'Callaghan

The versatile Dave O'Callaghan, who can play both in the second row and back-row, made 18 appearances for Munster last season, including three starts in Europe.

The 26-year-old featured at flanker in Munster's friendly with Worcester at Cork on Friday night before being replaced by Robin Copeland. Competition for places in the back-row is going to be as fierce as ever in the season ahead.

Tommy O'Donnell

The maurading  O'Donnell signed a new deal with Munster last December that will see him remain with the province until at least June 2019.

O'Donnell sustained a hip dislocation in Ireland's World Cup warm up game against Wales in August 2015, an injury which forced him to miss the tournament. He made an impressive return to action, however, and will looking to tie down a starting place in the back-row with Munster and perhaps Ireland.

Jack O'Donoghue

Jack O'Donoghue featured heavily in his first season as a senior player with Munster, appearing in 26 of the 28 competitive games.

The exciting 22-year-old will be looking to progress further in the season ahead, increasing his number of starts in the Champions Cup from just one.

The UL-Bohs clubman was also called into his first senior Irish squad by head coach Joe Schmidt last March.


Conor Murray

The Irish international y signed a three-year contract in January which will see him remain at Munster through to the end of Rugby World Cup 2019.

With his international commitments, Murray featured just 12 times for Munster last season, but was ever present through the Champions Cup.

The 27-year-old is firmly established as the province's first choice number nine and Munster's backroom team will be anxious that the Patrickswell man - one of the squad leaders - remains fit through the season. Murray will also be hoping to get a call-up for the Lions tour to New Zealand next summer.

Tomas O'Leary

O'Leary rejoined Munster on a two-year contract at the start of last season and began this term as the second most capped player of the squad at the beginning of 2016/17 with 143 appearances, just three short of Donnacha Ryan.

O'Leary started eight times for Munster last season and needs to make quick start to the Pro12 campaign.

Duncan Williams

Williams celebrated a milestone 100th appearance for the province during last season.

Murray is obviously first choice but the battle is for the regular starting role when Murray is away.

Didn't feature in the Champions Cup last season, something he will look to achieve this term.


Ian Keatley

Keatley played 25 times for Munster last season, but lost his starting place to Johnny Holland for the final weeks of the season. Tyler Bleyendaal's return to fitness provides further competition for the starting number 10 jersey, even with uncertainity over Holland's injury concerns.

A huge season lies ahead for 29-year-old Keatley who is in the last year of his current contract

Tyler Bleyendaal

New Zealander Bleyendaal is facing a make-or-break season with Munster. The out-half made just five competitive appearances for the province last season due to a quad injury.

The 26-year-old returned to action last weekend, when he turned in an eye-catching display in the friendly victory over Worcester. Munster will be desperate for the former Crusader to remain fit, especially after the worrying news over Johnny Holland's hamstring injury.

Johnny Holland

Finishing last season strongly, out-half Holland made five consecutive starts and scored his first competitive try for Munster against Leinster at the Aviva Stadium.

However, 25-year-old Holland has been troubled with a hamstring injury in recent times with speculation that it could even bring his career to a premature end.


Rory Scannell

Scannell was promoted from the academy ranks to a development contract at the start of this season and will advance to a full contract for 2017-18.

An excellent season for the 22-year-old was capped when he won the Munster Young Player of the Year accolade last May.

In a breakthrough season, Scannell started 20 times for Munster last term, making the number 12 jersey his own from December.

Formed at excellent midfield pairing with Francis Saili through much of the season, but will have a new midfield partner in the coming months with the Kiwi set to be sidelined for several months.

Sam Arnold

Former Exiles centre Sam Arnold joined Munster on a two-year deal this summer.

The highly regarded Arnold moved from Munster from Ulster where he made 14 senior appearances including his Champions Cup debut last January. Arnold is set to miss the opening period of Munster's season, however, after picking up a knee injury in training.

Cian Bohane

The 25-year-old is another player who will be anxious to push up. Bohane made just two appearances for the province last season in the Pro12 after enduring an injury-plagued season in 2014-15 when he ruptured both his anterior cruciate ligament and posterolateral corner.

Colm O'Shea

O'Shea is a former Leinster player who last week signed a short-term three-month contract with Munster.

The Clontarf clubman has impressed in pre-season training with Munster and started the province's opening pre-season friendly with Zebre. He was also introduced as a second half replacement in Friday night's win over Worcester.

The former Belvedere College schoolboy played 13 times for the Leinster A side

Francis Saili

Confirmation in recent weeks that  Saili is set  to be sidelined for three to four months due to a shoulder injury was a massive blow to Munster's prospects this season.

The 25-year-old All-Black played the most minutes of any player in the squad last season - accumulating 1,750 minutes of rugby in 22 appearances.

Of course Saili will be able to contribute to the squad off the field, but his loss from the Munster midfield is a major blow, especially as he is set to miss the opening two rounds of the European Champions Cup and is in a race against time to be fit for the back-to-back fixtures with Leicester Tigers in December.

David Johnston

Johnston continues to make rapid progress, securing a development contract for this season and a full contract for 2017-18.

In a breakthrough season, the 22-year-old made nine appearances in the Pro12 last term. His challenge will be to earn more gametime, following Bleyendaal's return to full fitness.


Andrew Conway

Conway will be looking to build on  last term when he played 22 times for Munster, including  four appearances in the Champions Cup.

The 25-year-old was also called into an Ireland training squad for the final round of the 6 Nations and secured a new two-year deal with Munster. Picked up an unfortunate knee injury at the end of last season.

Keith Earls

Following much speculation over his future, Earls signed a new deal in January that will see him remain at Munster through to the end of Rugby World Cup 2019.

The winger, 29 in October, remains an option to play in the centre following Francis Saili's injury. A Lions tour to New Zealand awaits at the end of the season and Earls would love the opportunity to don the famous red jersey once again.

Ronan O'Mahony

O'Mahony has enjoyed an excellent pre-season, scooping the Man of the Match accolade in Munster's impressive friendly win over Worcester at Musgrave Park last Friday night.

O'Mahony started 10 times for Munster last term, with his two starts in the Champions Cup highlighting how his career continues to impress.

The 27-year-old Limerick man will hope that upward spiral continues this term in a Munster squad where competition for places in the back three remains very competitive.

Darren Sweetnam

Sweetnam moves from a  development contract to a full contract this season.

Last season was certainly a breakthrough one for the former Cork hurler who was handed his first Munster senior start against Zebre in January, before going on to make nine appearances.

Will look to push on in the season ahead, seeking more gametime in the Pro12 and perhaps a breakthrough at Champions Cup level.

Alex Wootton

Macclesfield-born Wootton graduated to the Munster senior squad on a one-year development contract at the start of this season.

The Garryowen clubman, who can play at full-back or on the wing, made his Munster 'A' debut in December 2013 against Plymouth Albion. He was also included in the Ireland U-20 squad for the 2014 IRB Junior World Championship in New Zealand.

Wootton was a regular for Ireland Men's 7s in their unsuccessful bid for Olympic qualification in 2016.

Simon Zebo

Zebo has made a full recovery following keyhole surgery on his knee which had ruled him out of Ireland's tour of South Africa last June.

Zebo become the province's all-time leading try scorer last March and made his 100th appearance for the province against Connacht in April.

Zebo, who penned a two year deal with Munster in February, is a key member of the province's backline and provides a cutting edge which is even more valuable with Francis Saili's absence through injury.