Johann van Graan beefs up Munster pack for Castres clash

A new-look bench named for Thomond clash but visit of French side remains in doubt

Jason Jenkins is in line to make his Munster debut off the bench against Castres. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Champions Cup: Munster v Castres, Saturday Decemebr 18th, Thomond Park (kick-off 8pm, BT Sport).

As expected, Johann van Graan has reinforced the Munster tight five in making five changes to the starting line-up for Saturday’s Champions Cup clash against Castres Olympique at Thomond Park (kick-off 8pm). There are also a further eight changes to the matchday squad as a result of an entirely new replacements’ bench.

Niall Scannell, John Ryan and Jean Kleyn all come into the tight five, with Jack O’Donoghue recalled at number in a bid to muscle up for the anticipated challenge from the Castres pack. With Joey Carbery ruled out due to the fractured elbow he suffered in last week’s win away to Wasps, Ben Healy starts at outhalf.

The 19-year-old academy full-back Patrick Campbell keeps his place in the starting XV with five players set for their European debuts off the bench, namely hooker Diarmuid Barron, prop Keynan Knox, outhalf Jack Crowley and Academy backrow forward Alex Kendellen are all primed for their Champions Cup bows, as is Jason Jenkins.


The once-capped Springbok is named in a matchday squad for the first time and set for his Munster debut after joining the province last summer.

The back three of Campbell, Keith Earls - who scored his 22nd Champions Cup try last week and is now one try away from equalling the record for a Munster player in the competition set by Anthony Foley - and Simon Zebo.

However this match, like all European ties involving French clubs this weekend, is seriously in doubt. The presidents of the French clubs are once again meeting today and are considering the option of none of them playing a European match this weekend, which would throw the competition into disarray.

Games between Top 14 and Premiership sides are already in danger of being called off due to new French Government restrictions on travelling between France and the UK but the French clubs are concerned that if a player were to test positive for Covid-19 on British soil, he would have to observe a 10-day quarantine period.

As it is, in addition to the Montpellier tie, the Racing 92 v Ospreys round two match has also fallen by the wayside. The Welsh region recorded a number of positive tests for Covid-19 among their playing squad and as a consequence, they were unable to safely fulfill its scheduled fixture against Racing 92 on Saturday at the Paris La Défense Arena.

As a consequence, the match has been canceled, with Racing 92 awarded the match on a 28-0, five match points basis, in accordance with the tournament rules.

Munster: Patrick Campbell; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Keith Earls; Ben Healy, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O'Mahony (C), John Hodnett, Jack O'Donoghue. Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Josh Wycherley, Keynan Knox, Jason Jenkins, Jack O'Sullivan, Craig Casey, Jack Crowley, Alex Kendellen.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times