EPCR European Player of the Year Gavin Coombes returns to the starting lineup for Munster Rugby as they host fellow Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 contenders Ospreys in the United Rugby Championship (URC) on Friday. 

The No.8, who was named on a 15-man longlist for the 2023 award at the start of this month, has been released from the Ireland Six Nations squad.

Coombes is one of three changes to the Munster side that triumphed at Benetton Rugby last time out, with flanker Jack O’Donoghue back as captain after serving his suspension following a red card in Round 3 of the Heineken Champions Cup.

In addition, wing Simon Zebo, who is yet to feature in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup as he looks to add to his 34 tries in the competition, the third-most of all time, starts for his first appearance since December.

Ospreys are bolstered by the return of centre Owen Watkin, who is another awaiting his first Heineken Champions Cup game of the campaign after sustaining an injury in November.

Elsewhere in the URC, prop Eric O’Sullivan makes his 100th appearance for Ulster Rugby as they travel to Glasgow Warriors. Hooker Tom Stewart and wing Jacob Stockdale are back from Ireland duty to start for the visitors.

Meanwhile in the Gallagher Premiership, scrum-half Danny Care is poised to break Harlequins’ appearance record as he starts at Gloucester Rugby in an all-Heineken Champions Cup contest.

Care will turn out for the London club for the 352nd time, with 91 of those games coming in EPCR competitions, including all four of their Heineken Champions Cup pool matches this season.

Hooker Jack Musk, flankers James Chisholm and Luke Wallace and wing Cadan Murley all return for Quins at Kingsholm.

There is another milestone among the hosts’ ranks as prop Val Rapava-Ruskin makes his 100th Gloucester appearance.

There is also a huge boost for George Skivington’s side, since wing Louis Rees-Zammit is named on the bench on his return from an injury picked up in December, which kept him out the second part of the Heineken Champions Cup pool stage.