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O’Connell & Murray To Start

September 18, 2014 12:00 am By Munster Rugby

Anthony Foley’s side to face Zebre at Thomond Park this Friday has been named, and sees the return of Paul O’Connell, Conor Murray, Dave Kilcoyne, JJ Hanrahan, Paddy Butler and Denis Hurley to the red of Munster.

Seven changes are made to the starting side that defeated Treviso in Italy last weekend, with Felix Jones retaining the captain’s armband for a second consecutive game.

BJ Botha comes into the front row at tighthead with James Cronin and hooker Duncan Casey retaining their starting places.

Billy Holland lines out once again in the second row and is partnered by the returning Irish captain Paul O’Connell.

In the back row, Paddy Butler makes his first appearance of the season at 6, with openside flanker Tommy O’Donnell and number 8 Robin Copeland remaining in situ from last weekend.

Conor Murray also returns at scrum half and is joined by Johnny Holland in the half backs.  A product of the Greencore Munster Academy, Holland began a Senior Development Contract at the start of this season and will make his first competitive start for Munster tomorrow night.

Denis Hurley opens his account for Munster this season at inside centre, partnering Andrew Smith who takes charge of the outside channel. 

Following two 80 minute performances in rounds 1 & 2 of the PRO12, Andrew Conway’s place on the right wing goes to Ronan O’Mahony this week.  O’Mahony was included in the replacements last weekend but did not feature in the game.  Simon Zebo retains responsibility for the left wing, as does captain Felix Jones at full back.

Summer tourist with Ireland in Argentina, Dave Kilcoyne, and Emerging Ireland representative at the 2014 Nations Cup, JJ Hanrahan, will hope to begin their competitive seasons tomorrow night as both are named amongst the replacements.

Munster: Felix Jones – capt, Ronan O’Mahony, Andrew Smith, Denis Hurley, Simon Zebo; Johnny Holland, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Duncan Casey, BJ Botha; Billy Holland, Paul O’Connell; Paddy Butler, Tommy O’Donnell, Robin Copeland.

Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Donncha O’Callaghan, Sean Dougall, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Johne Murphy

Munster v Zebre, Guinness PRO12 Round 3, Thomond Park, Friday September 19th – KO 19:30.

Tickets are currently on sale for this game online here and will be on sale from the Mobile Ticket Office in the new Fan Zone Plaza on Friday from 10am and from the West Stand Ticket booth from 5.30pm. 

Please note that the North and South Terraces will remain closed for this game.

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Zebo Hat-trick Against Zebre

September 19, 2014 12:00 am By Munster Rugby

Munster have returned to winning ways at Thomond Park, doing so in style with a five try bonus point win over Zebre in Round 3 of the Guinness PRO12.

In the opening exchanges it was the Italians who enjoyed most of the possession, however the Munster defence held tough with Zebre gaining little penetration.

That said, it was the hosts who always looked the more threatening and their efforts were rewarded with their first try on 13 mins.  From an attacking scrum on the half way line, Johnny Holland, who made his first PRO12 start at fly-half, fired out a beautiful pass to find Andrew Smith at pace, unlocking the Zebre defence.  He in turn found Simon Zebo who did well not to be pushed into touch to cross in the corner.

Holland would have bisected the posts with the conversion had it not been for a strong wind blowing against him – the kick falling just short.  Unfortunately for the Cork-man, his starting outing was short lived as he left the field injured on 20 minutes with the returning JJ Hanrahan coming on for his first action of the season.

Holland received a bang to the shoulder and is awaiting a full assessment from the Munster medical team.

Munster also made good use of the choke tackle in the first half with Paul O’Connell instrumental in holding up the Zebre attack on a couple of occasions and winning back possession for the home-side.

Despite poor ball control in the line-out at times, the hosts never lost their composure, always managing to hold on to possession and providing Conor Murray with a platform to attack from.

Munster’s second try was indeed a tale of two wingers.  An excellent chase and catch from right winger Ronan O’Mahony put the province on the front foot.  Nice hands followed from Billy Holland and Denis Hurley with left winger Zebo again timing his run perfectly to touch down in the same corner on the half hour.

The strong wind also worked against Hanrahan with the conversion coming off the crossbar.

Zebre’s first kick at goal came on 33 minutes as Munster were penalised at the breakdown.  The Italians elected to make the most of a strong wind and kick from the half way line.  Centre Kelly Haimona was on kicking duties but the attempt fell short and wide.

Zebo’s hat-trick was secured on 35 minutes.  Hanrahan scooped up some loose ball and backing himself, ran straight through the visitors defence.  With options both left and right he opted for the inside ball to Zebo who this time touched down under the posts.  Hanrahan fittingly added the conversion.

17-0 to Munster at the break.

The province began the second half with serious momentum, putting Zebre on the back foot from the off.  Prop James Cronin displayed some impressive speed to unlock the Italian’s defence and put Munster deep in the opposition’s 22. 

A poor Zebre clearance later and the hosts had the chance to spread it across the line.  Man of the match Zebo was on hand to repay Smith for setting up his first try of the night – the Cork-man with a nice left pass for the Australian who again hit the line at pace and crossed for his first Munster try, and a bonus point try at that.

The post still toyed with Hanrahan, but after an encounter with the upright and crossbar, the ball eventually went over to secure the full 7 points.

Munster’s final try of the night came from Dave Kilcoyne, another of the returning internationals. 

Not to be outdone by their back-line counterparts on the night, this try was well worked by the forwards – mauling from a line-out and then keeping it tight through a number of phases, inching ever closer to the Zebre line.  An opportunistic pick and go saw Kilcoyne touch down to the left of the posts with Hanrahan adding the extras.

Try as Zebre might to get back into the game, they were dogged by constant infringements at the breakdown and set piece, and by a lack of precision on attack.  That said, the visitors were to have the last say on the night as a beautifully weighted kick for number 8 Samuel Vunisa saw him touch down on 80 minutes.

However Haimona could not convert to leave a full time score of Munster 31 Zebre 5.

The evening’s proceedings also saw the introduction of the Munster Academy’s Jack O’Donoghue, the Waterford man coming on to make his first senior appearance.  O’Donoghue was a late inclusion in the match-day squad, replacing Sean Dougall who fell on his elbow during training and was withdrawn for precautionary reasons.

Munster: Felix Jones – capt, Ronan O'Mahony, Andrew Smith, Denis Hurley (Murphy 63), Simon Zebo; Johnny Holland (Hanrahan 20), Conor Murray (Williams 63); James Cronin (Kilcoyne 54), Duncan Casey (O’Byrne 46), BJ Botha (Ryan 54); Billy Holland, Paul O'Connell; Paddy Butler, Tommy O'Donnell (O’Callaghan 69), Robin Copeland (O’Donoghue 57).

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