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Denis Hurley could hold key to Munster win

Munster Rugby

MOST of Rob Penney’s selected fifteen to start tomorrow in the Rabo Direct showdown with Leinster was predictable apart from the inclusion of Denis Hurley in the centre and the forced unavilability of Donnacha Ryan. Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray and Tommy O’Donnell all return to the side after helping Ireland to the Six Nations Championship.
Ian Keatley, man-of-the-match when Munster beat Leinster 19-15 at Thomond Park in October, returns to the side to partner Murray in the half-back line while Keatley will be looking to reach 500 points for Munster, the out-half has scored 497 points in 67 appearances.
Denis Hurley comes in to partner Casey Laulala in the centres with Laulala set to make his 47th appearance after less than two years at the province. It is a big test for the former St Munchin’s College player who will be faced with the task of containing the skillful Brian O’Driscoll. Hurley has only limited experience in the 12 shirt having shone at full-back and on either wing in the past.
Simon Zebo is named on the left wing and will earn his 60th Munster cap with Keith Earls, who made a try-scoring return from injury last week, and full-back Felix Jones maintaining their places.
Props Dave Kilcoyne and BJ Botha are both drafted into the side to join hooker Damien Varley in the front-row.
O’Connell, who missed the Treviso clash with a slight shoulder niggle, joins Dave Foley in the second-row with captain O’Mahony coming into a back-row that also includes O’Donnell and James Coughlan, who keeps his place.
Duncan Casey, James Cronin and Alan Cotter are the front-row replacements. Record appearance holder Donncha O’Callaghan and CJ Stander complete the cover in the forwards. Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan and Gerhard van den Heever are also named in the squad and will be hoping to make an impact off the bench.
On the injury front, Donnacha Ryan is wearing a protective boot after a specialist identified a strain under his right foot. It is not a common injury and will need to be treated and monitored on a week-to-week basis.
Cotter is included on the bench after Stephen Archer pulled up in training yesterday while fellow prop John Ryan is progressing well and following return-to-play protocols after a concussion against Treviso last weekend.
Munster team to play Leinster at the Aviva Stadium in the RaboDirect PRO12 tomorrow night (ko 7pm).
Felix Jones; Keith Earls, Casey Laulala, Denis Hurley, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, BJ Botha; Dave Foley, Paul O’ Connell; Peter O’Mahony(Capt), Tommy O’Donnell, James Coughlan. Replacements: Duncan Casey, James Cronin, Alan Cotter, Donncha O’Callaghan, CJ Stander, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Gerhard van den Heever.

Leinster: Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Ian Madigan, Eoin Reddan; Michael Bent, Richardt Strauss ,Mike Ross;  Devin Toner, Mike McCarth, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip. Replacements, 16. Sean Cronin, 17. Jack O’Connell, 18. Ed Byrne, 19. Leo Cullen, 20. Jordi Murphy, 21. Isaac Boss, 22. Jimmy Gopperth, 23. Zane Kirchner.

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