Planet Rugby

Preview: Munster v Saracens

07th December 2012 09:47

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Owen Farrell Harlequins

At 13: Owen Farrell

Pool One leaders Saracens travel to Thomond Park on Saturday in search of their first ever win over Munster.

The English side, who are unbeaten after victories over Racing Metro and Edinburgh, will have ambitions of claiming the spoils at one of the fortresses of European rugby but have lost all three of their previous meetings with the Irish.

Charlie Hodgson is the tournament's leading scorer after the first two rounds with 40 points.

Saracens have a 100 percent success rate on their own throw at the line-out this season, retaining ball on all 23 throws so far as well as stealing a competition high six opposition throws. Munster are also joint-top of the line-outs stolen chart, averaging three per game themselves.

Munster have retained possession at 97 percent of rucks and mauls, a tournament high.

In team news ahead of the game, number eight Ernst Joubert will make his 100th appearance for Saracens after being named to start.

In other news, Saracens welcome back the England quintet of Brad Barritt, Chris Ashton, Alex Goode, Owen Farrell and Mako Vunipola into the matchday 23. Barritt, Ashton, Goode and Farrell start the match while Vunipola is named on the bench.

Kelly Brown and Schalk Brits also return to the side after being rested last weekend.

Adam Powell, Jackson Wray, Jacques Burger, Justin Melck, Alistair Hargreaves and Joe Maddock all miss out through injury.

Meanwhile, Munster have made seven changes to the side that faced Edinburgh, with two of those positional. James Coughlan, Ronan O'Gara and Keith Earls missed out last time through injury and Felix Jones came on as a replacement in that game on his comeback.

Earls returned to the outside centre berth last week after the November internationals and he retains that jersey at the expense of Casey Laulala who offers a very potent back option.

And with back-rowers Niall Ronan, Sean Dougall, and Tommy O'Donnell all on the injured list, opportunity knocks for Dave O'Callaghan who has been handed the number six shirt.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Doug Howlett (capt), 13 Keith Earls, 12 James Downey, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Conor Murray, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Peter O'Mahony, 6 Dave O'Callaghan, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Mike Sherry, 1 David Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Peter Butler, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Casey Laulala.

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Owen Farrell, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 George Kruis, 20 Andy Saull, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Joel Tomkins, 23 Chris Wyles.

Date: Saturday, December 8
Venue: Thomond Park, Limerick
Kick-off: 18.00 GMT
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)

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