MUNSTER have made four changes to their team to take on Northampton in the Heineken Cup opener in Thomond Park on Saturday with the big surprise being the relegation of veterans Donncha O’Callaghan and Denis Leamy to the bench.
Keith Earls is ruled out with the knee injury he picked up in the RaboDirect PRO 12 game with Leinster last week while new signing Will Chambers is dropped from the starting 15. Into the team come Peter O’Mahony, James Coughlan, Danny Barnes and Denis Hurley.
Donncha Ryan moves from blindside flanker to partner captain Paul O’Connell in the second row while it’s a new-look backrow of Heineken Cup debutant Peter O’Mahony, Niall Ronan and James Coughlan.
Danny Barnes also makes his first Heineken Cup start alongside Lifeimi Mafi in the centre. Denis Hurley takes Earls’ place on the wing.
Munster do have an experienced bench with Leamy and O’Callaghan joined by John Hayes and Tomas O’Leary. Young prop John Ryan is named instead of the injured Marcus Horan. Denis Fogarty, Chambers and Ian Keatley complete the replacements list.
Munster’s opponents Northampton have named a strong side which includes former Munster player James Downey at inside centre and former Ulster player Roger Wilson at No 8. England stars Chris Ashton, Ben Foden, Courtney Lawes and captain Dylan Hartley are all included as is Tongan prop Soane Tonga’uiha and Russian winger Vasily Artemyev.
Munster are favourites to win the game at a price to 4/7 with Northampton at 7/4 and the draw at 20/1. Munster (-5) are 10/11. The game is live on Sky Sports and kicks off at 6pm.
MUNSTER V Northampton - Johne Murphy; Doug Howlett, Danny Barnes, Lifeimi Mafi, Denis Hurley; Ronan O’Gara, Conor Murray; Wian du Preez, Damien Varley, BJ Botha; Donncha Ryan, Paul O’Connell; Peter O’Mahony, Niall Ronan, James Coughlan. Replacements: Denis, Fogarty, John Ryan, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Denis Leamy, Tomas O’Leary, Ian Keatley, Will Chambers
NORTHAMPTON V Munster - Ben Foden; Chris Ashton, Jon Clarke, James Downey, Vasily Artemyev; Ryan Lamb, Lee Dickson; Soan Tonga’uiha, Dylan Hartley, Brian Mujati; Courtney Lawes, Mark Sorenson; Calum Clark, Tom Wood, Roger Wilson. Replacements: Mike Haywood, Alex Waller, Paul Doran Jones, Samu Manoa, Phil Dowson, Martin Roberts, Stephen Myler, George Pisi
REFEREE - Nigel Owens (Wales)