Munster face toughest test yet against reigning champions Saracens

Rassie Erasmus and his Munster side will face reigning holders Saracens at the Aviva Stadium in the Champions Cup Semi Final this afternoon at 3.15pm. Despite being played in Dublin, there promises to be a home like atmosphere for the Men in Red as they welcome the Premiership champions to the capital.

This will be Munster’s first Champions Cup semi final. However, it will be a tournament record 12th European Cup semi final for Munster. The last time they reached this stage was in 2014, where they were beaten by Clermont in France. The last time Munster reached the final of the competition was in 2008, where they overcame Toulouse in a classic in Cardiff.

Munster have played their best rugby so far this season in Europe, beginning with their 38-17 dismantling of Glasgow at Thomond Park in the first round, all to way up to their comprehensive win over Toulouse in the quarter final. In the meantime they have beaten Racing 92 twice and picked up wins against Leicester as well as a second victory over Glasgow. Their only reversal came courtesy of a last minute defeat against Leicester in Welford Road.

Yet Saracens will be favourites in Dublin and indeed to win out the competition once more. Their ability to use width coincided with their immense strength has seen them go undefeated through the competition. Should they avoid defeat against Munster, they will equal the longest undefeated streak in European Cup history which is 17 games, set by Leinster between 2010 and 2012.

This week saw three Munster players selected for Warran Gatland’s Lions squad. Those selected were Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander. Saracens had 6 players named in the 41-man-squad. Mako Vunipola, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Jamie George and Owen Farrell were all selected from the English club, illustrating their quality.

However,  Conor Murray, arguably Munster’s most vital player will miss the clash as he continues to recover from the Shoulder injury he suffered in the penultimate round of the six nations. Duncan Williams, who was so impressive against Toulouse in his absence will once more deputise for the Patrickswell man.

Conor Murray will once again have to watch from the bench while he continues his rehab from a troublesome shoulder injury.

Munster will be pleased to see CJ Stander named to start after missing the previous two Pro 12 games with injury. The No.8 is the tournaments leading ball carrier with 114 while no one else has carried over a 100 times. Stander will be keen to lock horns with Vunipola who he matched up so well against, earlier this year when Ireland played England in the Aviva.

Rory Scannell, who has been a revelation for Munster this year has also recovered from his ankle injury to be named at inside centre alongside Jaco Taute. The pair have been key to Munster’s success this season and will be crucial Sunday against the Sarcacens duo of Brad Barritt and Marcelo Lopez.

Andrew Conway comes in on the wing for Munster whilst Darren Sweetnam continues to follow concussion protocol after suffering the injury early on against Ulster last weekend. He joins Simon Zebo and Keith Earls in the back three.

While Saracens are favourites, should Munster play to their full potential, there may be a shock on the cards in the Aviva.

MUNSTER:  Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Jaco Taute, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Tyler Bleyendaal, Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (Capt.), Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander.

Replacements:  Rhys Marshall, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Dave O’Callaghan, Jean Deysel, Ian Keatley, Francis Saili, Darren Sweetnam.

SARACENS:  Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Marcelo Bosch, Brad Barritt, Sean Maitland; Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Vincent Koch, Maro Itoje, George Kruis; Michael Rhodes, Jackson Wray, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Schalk Brits, Titi Lamositele, Petrus du Plessis, Jim Hamilton, Schalk Burger, Ben Spencer, Alex Lozowski, Chris Wyles

Social Sharing

Posted in

Squad Update | Fresh injury blow for Simon Zebo while Conor Murray and Mike Haley return to the fold this week

Munster completed back-to-back victories in the URC for the first time this season when they beat Edinburgh last ...
Read More

Young Munster claim Limerick bragging rights as UL Bohs fall in Women’s AIL semi-final | AIL Round Up

It was a mixed weekend for the Limerick sides in the AIL with Young Munster earning the bragging ...
Read More

HIGHLIGHTS | Munster complete epic comeback against Edinburgh to seal consecutive URC victories

It's the first time this season that the province have completed back-to-back wins in the United Rugby Championship. ...
Read More

“We’re gradually putting ourselves in a better position” | Andi Kyriacou and Calvin Nash look ahead to Edinburgh clash on Friday

Munster chalked up their third win of the 2022/23 URC campaign last weekend in their Interpro derby with ...
Read More

TEAM | Rowntree makes five changes for team to face Edinburgh in URC

There are five personnel changes and one positional switch to the side that secured a bonus-point win against ...
Read More

Young Munster drawn against Cork Constitution in BOI Munster Senior Challenge Cup semi-final

Both of the semi-finals will take place in less than three weeks time on Saturday 17th of December ...
Read More

Squad Update | Mike Haley ruled out for Edinburgh with Jack Crowley awaiting a lower leg scan

Munster will look to get back to winning ways this weekend after beating Connacht in Thomond Park last ...
Read More

Division 1A joy for Young Munster and Shannon in Energia AIL | Round-Up

There were wins for three of the six Limerick outfits in their respective AIL divisions this weekend. Young ...
Read More