Saturday 25 January 2020

Munster bid to keep their Euro show on the road

Rory Scannell . Photo: Sportsfile
Rory Scannell . Photo: Sportsfile

The book of great Munster days in Europe is already bulging, yet they'll have to find some room in the annals if they can pull this one off.

They have already broken rule one of the Champions Cup by failing to win one of their home matches, while they compounded their draw against Racing 92 by giving Saracens a sniff with a losing bonus point last weekend.

As promised, Mark McCall has brought back a slew of World Cup stars but this is not a full-strength push from the champions who have left Maro Itoje, Will Skelton and Brad Barritt out for the return fixture.

In, however, come Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, Jamie George, George Kruis, Vincent Koch and the Vunipolas to make life uncomfortable for a Munster side who swap John Ryan in for Stephen Archer in the only change to their XV.

With the Parisians expected to extend their lead by beating the Ospreys with a bonus point, Munster need to keep Saracens at bay.

They must win at least one of their next two away games to progress. Neither venue is a place you'd choose to go when you need something, but if they can at least cancel out Saracens' return from Thomond Park, they'll remain in control of their destiny.

Despite the bad news cycle they currently exist in, Saracens remain a force and their returning England stars won't want to give up their one chance at a trophy easily.

Munster have faced their fury before and, while they have won two of their last five meetings, both came in Limerick.

With an aggressive, accurate defence, a strong set-piece, good rucking game and a varied and clinical attack, the Londoners are the complete package.

For all that there have been improvements this season, Munster are still some way off that mantle. They have looked good at times, but the men in red are struggling to sustain their attacking impetus for 80 minutes and their accuracy let them down even before the rain came down last week.

They point to those errors now and reckon it shows room to improve.

"They bring incredible linespeed off set-piece and they have quality individuals who are very good and strong defensively," Rory Scannell said. "You might get one or two opportunities, but you have to take them."

SARACENS: M Malins; S Maitland, A Lozowski, N Tompkins, E Daly; O Farrell (capt), R Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, J George, V Koch; J Kpoku, G Kruis; N Isiekwe, B Earl, B Vunipola. Reps: T Woolstencroft, R Barrington, J Ibuanokpe, C Clark, J Wray, B Spencer, M Vunipola, D Taylor.

MUNSTER: .M Haley; A Conway, CFarrell, R Scannell, K Earls; JJ Hanrahan, C Murray; J Cronin, N Scannell, J Ryan; J Kleyn, B Holland; T Beirne, P O'Mahony (capt), CJ Stander. Reps: K O'Byrne, L O'Connor, S Archer, F Wycherley, J O'DOnoghue, N McCarthy, D Goggin, T O'Donnell.

REF: P Gauzere (France).

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