Preview: Racing 92 v Munster

Date published: January 6 2017

Racing 92 have made 12 changes to the starting XV for the visit of Munster to the Stade Yves-du-Manoir this weekend in the Champions Cup.

Teddy Thomas is the only survivor in the backline from the side defeated by Toulon back on New Year’s Day, switching from the right wing to the left.

Juan Imhoff comes in at full-back with Joe Rokocoko on the other wing, while Anthony Tuitavake and Casey Laulala form a new centre partnership.

Xavier Chauveau and Benjamin Dambielle are the new half-backs, replacing Maxime Machenaud and Dan Carter.

Chris Masoe is retained in the back row, moving to blindside flanker from number eight as he is joined by Antoine Claassen and Matthieu Voisin. Gerbrandt Grobler partners Francois van der Merwe in the second row.

Racing coaches Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers have also opted for an entirely new front row, as Luc Ducalcon, Camille Chat and Khatchik Vartanov all start.

Meanwhile, no less than ten changes are made to the Munster side that defeated Connacht last weekend.

Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus also names his first changed European side this season.

Five personnel changes are seen in the pack. Niall Scannell and John Ryan both return to join James Cronin in the front row while Donnacha Ryan comes into the second row in partnering Billy Holland who makes the positional switch from number six.

Tommy O’Donnell has overcome an ankle injury sustained at the Sportsground last weekend to continue at openside with the returning duo of captain Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander taking charge at six and eight respectively.

Conor Murray and Tyler Bleyendaal resume their half-back partnership, as do Rory Scannell and Jaco Taute in midfield. Simon Zebo’s return at full-back sees Andrew Conway move to the right wing with Ronan O’Mahony named on the opposite flank.

Included among the replacements, should he feature tomorrow, Keith Earls will make his 50th European appearance.

Along with those ruled out through injury, Jean Kleyn and Thomas Du Toit were unavailable for selection this week due to illness.

Form: Racing 92 and Munster have met twice previously in European competition; both matches in the 2012/13 pool stage were won by the home side on the day. Racing have lost three of their four fixtures against Irish opposition in the Champions Cup. Racing have lost their last four Champions Cup games, but have not lost more consecutive matches since a run of six defeats from 2010 to 2011. Although they lost at home to Glasgow Warriors in Round 3, Racing have won six of their last seven home pool stage games with the victories coming by an average margin of 27 points. Munster have lost their last two away games against Top 14 opposition, but have not lost more consecutive games away to French clubs since their first five matches from 1995 to 1998.

The teams: 

Racing 92: 15 Juan Imhoff, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Anthony Tuitavke, 11 Teddy Thomas, 10 Benjamin Dambielle, 9 Xavier Chauveau, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Matthieu Voisin, 6 Chris Masoe, 5 Francois van der Merwe, 4 Gerbrandt Grobler, 3 Luc Ducalcon, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Khatchik Vartanov
Replacements: 16 Virgile Lacombe, 17 Julien Brugnaut, 18 Cedate Gomes Sa, 19 Ali Williams, 20 So’otala Fa’aso’o, 21 James Hart, 22 Dan Carter, 23 Henry Chavancy

Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Ronan O’Mahony, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Billy Holland, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 James Cronin
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Dave Foley, 20 Jack O’Donoghue, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Keith Earls, 23 Francis Saili

Date: Saturday, January 7
Venue: Stade Yves-du-Manoir
Kick-off: 15:45 GMT
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth (England), Paul Dix (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)