herald

Saturday 18 November 2017

Reds out to tame Tigers as old foes face off yet again

Munster recall Donnacha Ryan (left) and Simon Zebo.
Munster recall Donnacha Ryan (left) and Simon Zebo.

One of those rivalries that built the European Cup into what it is will turn over the next chapter at Thomond Park this afternoon (KO 3.15, BT Sport 2) .

There was the infamous 'Hand of (Neil) Back' in the 2002 final when accusations of cheating failed to camouflage the fact the Tigers were better on the day.

There was the fading of Munster's aura of invincibility when Leicester took away their unbeaten home record in 2007.

But it hasn't been all English pomp.

Munster have had their moments too, Ronan O'Gara's penalty from halfway silencing Welford Road in the autumn of 2006.

Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has been able to renew the confidence and the culture that are the hallmarks of every revered club.

There are half-a-dozen alterations to the side which elbowed aside Glasgow Warriors in the PRO12 last week.

They all improve the product as Donnacha Ryan and CJ Stander top up their experience and ballast in the front eight.

It is in behind where the real surgery takes place with Ireland's Conor Murray, Simon Zebo and Keith Earls back in the van.

Perhaps, it is the graduation of Tyler Bleyendaal from injury crock to cruise control at fly-half that has been the biggest factor in their rise.

The increasing overseas influence is reflected on the bench where hooker Rhys Marshall, prop Thomas Du Toit and second row Jean Kleyn are on call to make their European debuts.

For their part, Thomond Park holds no fear for Leicester.

It would be remiss not to point out the British & Irish Lions interest in the tussle between Murray and Ben Youngs, currently the two best scrum-halves in Europe.

There is enough muscle between Logovi'i Mulipola, Tom Youngs, Ed Slater and Manu Tuilagi to water the eyes of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

It is a big man's game in which only the strongest will survive.

Munster: S Zebo; D Sweetnam, J Taute, R Scannell, K Earls; T Bleyendaal, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan, D Ryan, B Holland, P O'Mahony (capt), T O'Donnell, CJ Stander.

Leicester: G Worth; A Thompstone, M Tuilagi, O Williams, P Betham; F Burns, B Youngs; L Mulipola, T Youngs, G Bateman, E Slater, G Kitchener, M Fitzgerald, B O'Connor, L McCaffrey.

Verdict: Munster.

  • Munster v Leicester

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