Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray and Antoine Frisch all return to Munster squad for Champions Cup trip to Durban

Irish province face the Sharks in their Champions Cup last-16 tie next Saturday

Champions Cup: Sharks v Munster, Kings Park, Durban, (1.30pm local time, 12.30pm Irish time)

As expected, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray and the fit-again Antoine Frisch have all returned to the Munster squad for next Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup last-16 tie against the Sharks in Durban. In a further, and timely, boost hooker Niall Scannell has recovered from his shoulder injury and is named in a travelling party of 28 players.

The squad, comprising 16 forwards and 12 backs, along with management, will fly out tonight (Tuesday) and arrive in Durban tomorrow evening (Wednesday) ahead of the game.

Following the setback of last Saturday’s 38-26 loss against Glasgow in their final regular season game at Thomond Park, O’Mahony and Murray bring “everything” according to head coach Graham Rowntree, “both leadership and performance, just having them around the group. Pete wasn’t involved at the weekend, but just having him around yesterday as we were navigating our way through the review was very helpful.


“He’s been through a few reviews and a few performances like that before, so having people around like him and Conor Murray was calming for the group.”

Rowntree admitted to being shocked by his team’s performance against Glasgow, having won 10 of their previous 13 games.

“As I said on Saturday night, there’s things we did in that first half in particular, it’s not us. We made life too easy for Glasgow. And let me just say, I thought they were exceptional the way they played the game, the way they attacked us, the way they dealt with our breakdown.

“There’s things we looked at on review, crikey we had a long, very honest review. We’re an honest bunch of lads here and we looked at individual errors, system errors, and we talked about it, because it can’t happen again.”

Rowntree also vowed that Munster will be true to their approach under a new coaching ticket this season

“We’re certainly looking to play rugby. We don’t suddenly become a rubbish team overnight, although half time didn’t feel like that on Saturday. We don’t suddenly become rubbish, and as I said on Saturday we can score tries, but we can’t give ourselves a mountain to climb, like we did.”

Citing the response of his team in the second-half after trailing 28-0, Rowntree vowed: “I’ll get a reaction, the guys are honest, the guys were very down afterwards, as they should be. I was down afterwards, but the beauty of this sport is you have another huge challenge just around the corner, so you’ve got to deal with it. The pictures are undeniable, some of the pictures, you just have to show them. I don’t have to shame them, they know.

“We’ve just done a good training session, and we’re in good nick, we get on the plane tonight looking forward to a massive challenge. In this competition, this club, these games away from home ... this is why you do it. What a memory this will be, if we get this one right at the weekend.”

The Sharks are expected to have their retinue of Springboks in next Saturday’s line-up, albeit they were also part of the side beaten 32-20 by the Scarlets last Saturday as well.

Identifying the Sharks “monster pack” and “pace on the edges”, Rowntree said: “They’re big, heavy and quick.

“If you watched them on Saturday, they lost down at Scarlets, but they were a handful. They can score tries, but you talk about their power game, it’s very impressive. I’d compare them to a Toulouse, the way they’re able to play the game, and their qualities you have to respect around their maul and their scrum. Our discipline has got to be spot on at the weekend.

“That’s the one thing that was better at the weekend. We conceded seven penalties against Glasgow, our discipline has got to be as good this weekend because I don’t really want to be defending mauls all day, with the size of their pack.”

All three other Irish sides have played the Sharks in the heat and humidity of Durban, with Leinster and Connacht losing there last April, while Ulster had an impressive 31-24 victory in their rearranged game there five weeks ago. Rowntree had sounded out his provincial counterparts.

“Yeah, we have, and for off the field stuff as well, like how to deal with the heat. We’ve been preparing for this quietly, we’ve had other games to concentrate on, but we’ve been preparing for these conditions in the background. We’ve done our research.”

Munster’s travelling squad

Forwards: Dave Kilcoyne, Josh Wycherley; Diarmuid Barron, Scott Buckley, Niall Scannell; Stephen Archer, Keynan Knox, Roman Salanoa; Jean Kleyn, RG Snyman, Fineen Wycherley; Gavin Coombes, John Hodnett, Alex Kendellen, Jack O’Donoghue, Peter O’Mahony.

Backs: Craig Casey, Conor Murray, Paddy Patterson; Joey Carbery, Jack Crowley, Ben Healy; Malakai Fekitoa, Antoine Frisch; Shane Daly, Mike Haley, Calvin Nash, Simon Zebo.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times