Leigh Halfpenny starts for Crusaders against Munster as teams named for sold-out clash

Adam Kyriacou
Leigh Halfpenny warming up.

Leigh Halfpenny warming up.

Munster and the Crusaders have announced their teams for Saturday’s fixture at a sold-out Páirc Uí Chaoimh, with Leigh Halfpenny starting at 15 for the visiting side.

A capacity crowd of 40,885 will greet the two sides as the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific champions face the United Rugby Championship holders in a special friendly game.

Munster are without a whole host of players due to injury and Six Nations call-ups for Ireland while the Crusaders have left many of their All Blacks stars in New Zealand.

Alex Kendellen skippers

However, there is still plenty of quality set to be on show as Alex Kendellen will captain Munster for the first time, packing down at openside flank for the showdown in Cork.

There will be a familiar face to Crusaders players and fans in the Munster midfield as former Tasman and Chiefs star Alex Nankivell links up with Antoine Frisch once again.

The duo will start outside of half-back pairing Ethan Coughlan and Joey Carbery, with Shane Daly (full-back) and wings Sean O’Brien and Shay McCarthy in the back three.

Up front, hooker Eoghan Clarke makes his first start for the Irish province while Jack O’Sullivan gets the nod from the off for the first time this season as the number eight.

Clarke is joined by Josh Wycherley and Stephen Archer in the front-row with Gavin Coombes moving forward to partner Fineen Wycherley in Munster’s engine room.

Unfortunately for the hosts, lock/flanker Tom Ahern is continuing the return to play protocols with full-back Patrick Campbell also unavailable due to a shoulder injury.

Former Crusaders prop Oli Jager and experienced hooker Niall Scannell are out with minor knocks while full-back Mike Haley continues his return from long-term injury.

Meanwhile, Wales legend Halfpenny headlines the Crusaders starting line-up as their new signing is joined by wings Macca Springer and Chay Fihaki in their back three.

The busy Mitch Drummond links with Taha Kemara in the half-backs while Dallas McLeod and Levi Aumua are the centres, with veteran Ryan Crotty on the bench.

In the pack head coach Rob Penney’s back-row catches the eye as Dominic Gardiner, Tom Christie and Cullen Grace start behind locks Tahlor Cahill and Quinten Strange.

Completing the starting team in the front-row is All Blacks props George Bower and Owen Franks, with George Bell wearing their number two jersey at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Following this sold-out meeting in Ireland, the New Zealanders will travel to England to face off against Premiership side Bristol Bears on Friday, February 9 in their tour finale.

The teams

Munster: 15 Shane Daly, 14 Sean O’Brien, 13 Antoine Frisch, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Shay McCarthy, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Ethan Coughlan, 8 Jack O’Sullivan, 7 Alex Kendellen (c), 6 Ruadhán Quinn, 5 Fineen Wycherley, 4 Gavin Coombes, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Eoghan Clarke, 1 Josh Wycherley
Replacements: 16 Scott Buckley, 17 Mark Donnelly, 18 John Ryan, 19 Kamil Nowak, 20 Jack Daly, 21 Daniel Okeke, 22 Neil Cronin, 23 Tony Butler, 24 Rory Scannell, 25 Colm Hogan

Crusaders: 15 Leigh Halfpennny, 14 Chay Fihaki, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 Dallas McLeod, 11 Macca Springer, 10 Taha Kemara, 9 Mitch Drummond, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Dominic Gardiner, 5 Tahlor Cahill, 4 Quinten Strange (c), 3 Owen Franks, 2 George Bell, 1 George Bower
Replacements: 16 Ioane Moananu, 17 Kershawl Sykes-Martin, 18 Seb Calder, 19 Jamie Hannah, 20 Christian Lio-Willie, 21 Noah Hotham, 22 Rivez Reihana, 23 Ryan Crotty, 24 Josh Southall, 25 Heremaia Murray

Date: Saturday, February 3
Venue: Páirc Uí Chaoimh
Kick-off: 17:00 GMT

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