Preview: Munster v Saracens

Date published: October 23 2014

Munster are ready for a stern test when Saracens come to town to kick off Round Two of this season’s Champions Cup on Friday.

Munster are ready for a stern test when Saracens come to town to kick off Round Two of this season’s Champions Cup on Friday.

Anthony Foley is looking for an improvement after his men snatched victory at the death thanks to Ian Keatley’s drop goal at Sale.

“We’ve analysed the game and we were 5 percent below where we needed to be. We were actually below where we were against the Ospreys and we lost that game. In terms of analysis Sale was the first game we’ve won at that percentage.

“We know we need to get those percentages back and we know where it’s gonna come from. We need to use that ball better, we need to get into better positions and we need to restrict the opposition – we can’t allow opposition so much easy ball.”

Peter O’Mahony has plenty of respect for Friday’s opponents, even likening them to the Munster of old.

“They’ve been very impressive. There’s a bit of “old Munster” about them,” said O’Mahony.

“They’ve been knocking on the door of Europe for the last few years, and we know they are hungry for success. That’s not to say that we won’t be hungry for success as well on Friday night. It’s a big game for us, and we will probably be going in as underdogs and as I said, we need to improve big time. They are a fairly complete side.

“They can attack from all areas, with dangerous players all over the place. If we carry on like we did for 30 minutes of the first half then I don’t think we’ll have much of a hope.”

Munster make two changes in the front-row as James Cronin and BJ Botha come in at loosehead and tighthead respectively while Duncan Casey remains at hooker.

Following his debut inclusion in Joe Schmidt’s Ireland squad for the upcoming November Tests, Dave Foley will start alongside Paul O’Connell in the second-row.

In the back-row Peter O’Mahony captains the side from six with Tommy O’Donnell at seven, and another man of the match performance last weekend sees CJ Stander continue at number eight.

Conor Murray and Ian Keatley remain at half-back as do Denis Hurley and Andrew Smith in the centre, while Simon Zebo, Andrew Conway and Felix Jones once again make up the back three.

Meanwhile, Owen Farrell returns to the side at fly-half, to partner Neil de Kock in the halves, as Mark McCall chooses to rotate his half-backs for the trip to Limerick.

Marcelo Bosch replaces Chris Wyles at outside centre to partner Brad Barritt in the midfield, with Chris Ashton, David Strettle and Alex Goode named in the back three.

Up front, Richard Barrington, Jamie George and Petrus Du Plessis continue in the front-row.

Alistair Hargreaves is ruled out of the game with a slight knock, so Jim Hamilton comes into the side to join George Kruis at lock.

In the back-row, Will Fraser starts at openside flanker, with Kelly Brown and Billy Vunipola named at blindside flanker and number eight respectively.

“The important thing last Saturday was we showed some resolve, and some resilience when we had to,” said Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall.

“It wasn’t a straight forward match, the side displayed character, fight and as I said, resilience in abundance. Those are the kind of qualities you need to show if you are to be successful at Thomond Park.

“History suggests that they are particularly good at lifting their performance for these home games in Europe, and we have to ready for that and be prepared to match it.”

“This week has gone really well. Our preparation has been good, and of a high level. There’s real anticipation around the group for Friday night.”

Form: Munster have won four of the five meetings between these two sides in Europe. Both teams started with in Round One, with Munster just about pipping Sale Sharks and Saracens defeating Clermont.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Denis Hurley, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Paul O’Connell, 4 Dave Foley, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Dave Casey, 1 James Cronin
Replacements: 16 Eusebio Guinazu, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Robin Copeland, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Gerhard van den Heever

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 George Kruis, 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Richard Barrington
Replacements: 16 Scott Spurling, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 James Johnston, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Duncan Taylor

Date: Friday, October 24
Venue: Thomond Park
Kickoff: 19:45 local (18:45 GMT)
Referee: J