FLANKER Tommy O’Donnell has been ruled out of the remainder of Munster’s Guinness PRO12 campaign this season after tearing his hamstring in the province’s draw with Ulster in Belfast last weekend.
Munster have confirmed that Irish star O’Donnell is expected to be sidelined for between six and eight weeks with the injury. Confirmation of the lay-off is a blow for O’Donnell ahead of next autumn’s Rugby World Cup.
Munster must also plan without winger Simon Zebo for tomorrow’s crucial PRO12 clash with Dragons at Musgrave Park, 3pm. Zebo has failed to recover fully from back spasms. However, the winger is expected to make a return to full training next week after further rest.
Out-half Ian Keatley is set to win his 100th cap for the province in Saturday’s game when Munster will be hoping to secure a home semi-final in the PRO12 play-offs.
Duncan Casey and Peter O’Mahony are late withdrawals from this week’s squad ahead of the Dragons clash. Hooker Casey reported mild back pain, while captain O’Mahony picked up a knock in training on Thursday. Both players are expected to take a full part in next week’s programme.
In total, Munster make five personnel changes to the side that drew 23-23 away to Ulster last Saturday for the final game of the regular season with Dragons. Centre Denis Hurley captains the side.
Donnacha Ryan makes the switch from the second-row to number 6 this weekend, Billy Holland returns to the starting line-up alongside Paul O’Connell in the second row.
This is the first time O’Connell has played at the redeveloped Musgrave Park ground, and coincidentally, the last time he played in Cork was against the Dragons, in September 2013.
Ryan is joined in the back row by Paddy Butler at 7 and last weekend’s Man of the Match CJ Stander who continues at number 8.
Conor Murray and Ian Keatley - who wins his 100th Munster cap - remain at half back, as do captain Denis Hurley and Andrew Smith in the centre, while the only change in the backline sees Ronan O’Mahony join the back three alongside Keith Earls and Felix Jones.
Munster: Felix Jones; Keith Earls, Andrew Smith, Denis Hurley (Capt) Ronan O’Mahony, Ian Keatley, Conor Murray, John Ryan, Eusebio Guinazu, BJ Botha; Billy Holland, Paul O’Connell; Donnacha Ryan, Paddy Butler, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Sean Dougall, Jack O’Donoghue, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Andrew Conway.