MUNSTER have been handed a double boost ahead of two crunch European Champions Cup ties with the fit-again duo of Keith Earls and James Cronin included in the replacements for this Saturday’s Guinness PRO12 clash with Zebre in Italy.
Dynamic winger Earls is in line to make his first appearance of the season off the bench for Munster having successfully rehabbed a knee injury sustained at an Ireland training camp during preseason.
Prop James Cronin could also feature from the bench after recovering from a shoulder injury sustained during Munster’s Champions Cup defeat to Clermont Auvergne at the start of December.
The return of both Earls and Cronin is a major boost for coach Anthony Foley ahead of crunch Champions Cup fixtures, beginning with the fifth round clash with Saracens at Allianz Park on Saturday, January 17,
In total, coach Foley makes seven personnel changes from the side that started in the defeat away to Connacht on New Year’s Day for Saturday’s trip to the Stadio XXV Aprile which kicks off at 3pm Irish time.
JJ Hanrahan, who is set to join Aviva Premiership high flyers Northampton next season, is included in the centre alongside Pat Howard.
In the front row Eusebio Guinazu makes his first start for the province, doing so at loosehead alongside hooker Kevin O’Byrne and tighthead Stephen Archer, both of whom come back into the starting line-up.
Dave Foley returns to partner Billy Holland in the second row, while in the back row, number eight CJ Stander retains his position.
In another fitness boost for Munster, Conor Murray resumes his partnership with Ian Keatley in the half-backs.
Felix Jones comes into the side at fullback meaning Simon Zebo reverts back to the left wing with Ronan O’Mahony on the opposite flank.
Zebre v Munster, Guinness PRO12 Round 13, Saturday January 10th at the Stadio XXV Aprile - KO 3pm Irish (4pm local).
This game will be televised on Nuvolari TV and not broadcast live on Irish channels.
MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Ronan O’Mahony, Pat Howard, JJ Hanrahan, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Eusebio Guinazu, Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer; Dave Foley, Billy Holland; Dave O’Callaghan, Peter O’Mahony (Capt), CJ Stander. Replacements: Niall Scannell, James Cronin, John Ryan, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paddy Butler, Duncan Williams, Keith Earls, Johne Murphy.