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Monday 5 December 2016

Munster out to make new memories in old fortress

Munster's Niall Scannell
Munster's Niall Scannell

Niall Scannell will follow in the footsteps of fabled figures, like Frankie Sheahan, by making his Champions Cup debut at hooker for Munster.

The former Ireland U20 captain will have BJ Botha and James Cronin on either side of him to combat what is certain to be a bullish Leicester front row.

It will take every ounce of muscle and morsel of energy to withstand the pressure coming through from Marcos Ayerza, Tom Youngs and Dan Cole and the big boys in behind them.

The fact Leicester have gained maximum points from the first two rounds means they have the jump on Munster, who had their trip to Stade Francais postponed.

The selection of Ed Slater on the flank instead of the second row indicates they will look to overpower the home crew.

Surprisingly, Robin Copeland has taken this long to make his first start at the highest level in club rugby.

There have been recent signs that his X-Factor footwork and offloading could be just the ticket for Munster.

Significantly, Conor Murray, Donnacha Ryan, Francis Saili and Mike Sherry all came through the week with a clean bill of health.

As long as Munster can cope in the trenches, they have every chance of coming out smelling of roses.

Half-backs Murray and Ian Keatley have a wealth of talent outside them with Francis Saili bought for occasions like these to supplement the brilliance of Simon Zebo and Keith Earls.

Munster: A Conway; K Earls, F Saili, D Hurley, S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray; J Cronin, N Scannell, BJ Botha; D Foley, D Ryan, R Copeland, D O'Callaghan, CJ Stander (capt).

Leicester: T Veainu; A Thompstone, M Smith, S Bai, V Goneva; O Williams, B Youngs; M Ayerza, T Youngs, D Cole, G Kitchener, M Fitzgerald, E Slater (capt), B O'Connor, L McCaffrey.

Verdict: Munster

Munster v Leicester, Thomond Park, Today KO7.45 (BT Sport Europe)

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