O’Donoghue returns for Munster against Ospreys

Nash gets rare opportunity on the wing, while Hanrahan is handed the No 10 jersey

Jack O’Donoghue at Munster squad training in Limerick. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Jack O’Donoghue at Munster squad training in Limerick. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

Ospreys v Munster, Liberty stadium, 7.35pm, live on TG4, Eir Sport, Premier Sports

Jack O’Donoghue makes a welcome return to the Munster match-day 23 for the first time since suffering knee ligament damage in last season’s Guinness Pro14 defeat to Leinster. The talented 25-year-old Waterford native will be keen to make up for lost time.

Munster coach Johann van Graan is able to name a strong team despite injury and international commitments. Calvin Nash gets a rare opportunity on the wing, JJ Hanrahan is handed the No 10 jersey, while Garryowen’s former club international Neil Cronin is his halfback partner.

Jeremy Loughman has settled and impressed this season, and forms part of a strong frontrow and a powerful back five in the pack.

The Ospreys will provide another testing physical benchmark in the impressive Fineen Wycherley’s maturation as a player.

The Welsh franchise has plenty of pace in the back three in fullback Dan Evans and wings Hanno Dirksen and Keelan Giles, but lack a little experience at halfback and are down to the bare bones at loosehead prop.

They trail Munster by 15 points in the table, and head coach Allen Clarke said: “There are six games to go in the regular season, and with various head to head games in the conference over the next couple of weeks the importance of the next two matches is huge.

“Our goal is simply to still be fighting for the end-of-season knockouts when the internationals return for the last four games.”

OSPREYS: D Evans; H Dirksen, C Allen, T Thomas-Wheeler, K Giles; L Price, M Aubrey; J Lay, S Baldwin, T Botha; J King, B Davies; O Cracknell (capt), S Cross, R McCusker.

Replacements: S Otten, R Jenkins, M Fia, L Ashley, W Griffiths, R Morgan-Williams, J Hook, L Morgan.

MUNSTER: M Haley; C Nash, D Goggin, J Taute, D Sweetnam; JJ Hanrahan, N Cronin; J Loughman, R Marshall, S Archer; J Kleyn, B Holland (capt); F Wycherley, C Cloete, A Botha.

Replacements: K O’Byrne, L O’Connor, C Parker, D O’Shea, J O’Donoghue, A Mathewson, B Johnston, R Scannell.

Referee: S Berry (South Africa)

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