herald

Sunday 23 November 2014

Munster can plant seed of doubt in Sarries

Munster v Saracens, Thomond Park, tonight 6.0, Sky Sports 1

It is already do or be done.

Munster can insert an element of doubt into the mindset of their durable English Premiership rivals, fronted by coach Mark McCall (inset), the former Ireland centre.

At the moment, Sarries hold a three-point lead from their nine points gained at the expense of Edinburgh (5) and Racing Metro (4) in the first two rounds.

Munster could still pay for their profligacy away to Racing, where they got out to the best possible start only to throw the game away.

There is a question mark over their ability to close out big matches now that a host of experienced players have retired and Paul O'Connell is nowhere to be seen.

The talk of transition by Rob Penney is realistic and accurate. His predecessor, Tony McGahan, did not exactly develop the next generation.

Penney has chosen the James Downey/Keith Earls axis over one including Casey Laulala, who has been a distinct disappointment so far.

Fly-half Ronan O'Gara, number eight James Coughlan and Earls return from injury, while full-back Felix Jones must be making strides from much-needed game time.

The back row is an area of concern as Niall Ronan, Sean Dougall, CJ Stander and Tommy O'Donnell, suddenly blossoming, are all outside the frame.

Opportunity knocks for Dave O'Callaghan in what will be a hotly contested area patrolled by the likes of Ernst Joubert and Kelly Brown.

Munster need to win and by more than seven with the prospect of a testing return date with Saracens next week.

Munster: F Jones; D Howlett (capt), K Earls, J Downey, S Zebo; R O'Gara, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, BJ Botha; Donncha O'Callaghan, D Ryan, Dave O'Callaghan, P O'Mahony, J Coughlan. Replacements: D Varley, W du Preez, S Archer, B Holland, P Butler; D Williams, I Keatley, C Laulala.

Saracens: A Goode; C Ashton, O Farrell, B Barritt, D Strettle; C Hodgson, N de Kock; R Gill, S Brits, M Stevens, S Borthwick (capt), M Botha, K Brown, W Fraser, E Joubert. Replacements: J Smit, M Vunipola, P du Plessis, G Kruis, A Saull; R Wigglesworth, J Tomkins, C Wyles.

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