Preview: Munster v Northampton

Date published: November 12 2011

Munster Academy graduates, Danny Barnes, Conor Murray and Peter O'Mahony will make their first Heineken Cup starts on Saturday.

Munster Academy graduates, Danny Barnes, Conor Murray and Peter O'Mahony, will make their Heineken Cup starts against Saints on Saturday.

And continuing the successful development of young players, 23-year-old Cork Constitution prop John Ryan, who featured in their Ulster Bank League game last weekend against Clontarf, comes onto the bench in place of the injured Marcus Horan, who failed a late fitness test having picked up an ankle injury in training.

The side shows five changes from the one that started against Leinster, two in the backline and three up front. Denis Hurley comes onto the wing in place of injury victim Keith Earls while Barnes, a second minute replacement for Earls against Leinster, retains the 13 jersey ahead of Will Chambers who's named on the bench.

It's in the pack that the big calls have been made with Donncha O'Callaghan and Denis Leamy both relegated to the bench in favour of O'Mahony and James Coughlan, O'Callaghan giving way to Donnacha Ryan who moves up from the blindside flank he occupied against Leinster to partner Paul O'Connell at lock.

Meanwhile, Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder says he is expecting a step up in intensity for their Heineken Cup opener at Munster's Thomond Park.

Northampton locked horns with Munster three times during the 2009/10 season. And while Mallinder commented that changes in personnel and team development meant that it was difficult to draw comparisons between that campaign and this year's match up, there are some things which do not change, not least the level which the Saints will have to play at.

“There has been a step up in training this week and we've needed it,” he said.

“The Heineken Cup games are of a higher intensity than the league and we've got to make sure that we play at that intensity when we go across to Munster this weekend.

“Munster will go into the game knowing that they can beat anybody, especially at Thomond Park, which is a fantastic arena with a terrific atmosphere. Winning your home games is crucial in the Heineken Cup and Munster will be under pressure to get a result. But we're putting ourselves under the same pressure and we want the win as well.

“We are going into the game in good spirits after our recent run of results. Our team has a bit more experience than it has in the past and hopefully we will be able to put the lessons of the past into practice on Saturday evening.”

The teams:

Munster: 15 Johne Murphy, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Lifeimi Mafi, 11 Denis Hurley, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Conor Murray, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Niall Ronan, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Denis Fogarty, 17 John Ryan, 18 John Hayes, 19 Donncha O'Callaghan, 20 Denis Leamy, 21 Tomas O'Leary, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Will Chambers.

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Jon Clarke, 12 James Downey, 11 Vas Artemyev, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Samu Manoa, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Steve Myler, 23 George Pisi.

Date: Saturday, November 12
Kick-off: 18:00
Venue: Thomond Park
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)