Friday 24 November 2017

Saints stand in way of home comfort for Munster

MUNSTER know they must beat the Northampton Saints in Milton Keynes to guarantee a Thomond Park quarter-final.

Tony McGahan's men have five wins from five, but failure to secure any bonus points so far means that only a win will do if they are to play their last eight game in Limerick.

A season-ending injury to Niall Ronan forces a reshuffle in the pack where Donncha O'Callaghan, Ronan's replacement after 14 minutes in the 26-10 win over Castres, will partner skipper Paul O'Connell in the second row. Donnacha Ryan moves from lock to blindside flanker while Peter O'Mahony, who started at six against Castres, takes over on the openside from Ronan.

Otherwise, it's a case of as you were in the starting XV. On the bench, however, there's a first-time inclusion in a Heineken Cup match day squad for Dave O'Callaghan while the ever reliable Mick O'Driscoll, with 196 Munster caps under his belt, makes his first appearance of this Heineken campaign as a substitute.

Meanwhile, Northampton have left Chris Ashton out of their team to face Munster in a week where the England international fell out with Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder and announced that he will move to Saracens next season.


The Saints are going for a place in the last eight of the Amlin Challenge Cup and Mallinder said there was plenty of motivation within the squad at Franklin's Gardens.

"We're disappointed we're not in the Heineken Cup knockouts because we want to win every single game we can, but the Amlin Challenge Cup is a good competition and we used it as a good springboard a couple of years ago," he explained.

"The first game against us and the second game against Castres sum up what this Munster team is all about.

"They didn't win by much, but they won, and that's what the Heineken Cup is all about."

Northampton: B Foden, J Elliott, G Pisi, J Downey, V Artemyev, R Lamb, L Dickson, R Wilson, P Dowson, C Clark, M Sorenson, S Manoa, B Mujati, D Hartley (c), S Tonga'uiha.

Munster: D Hurley, J Murphy, K Earls, L Mafi, S Zebo, R O'Gara, C Murray, J Coughlan, P O'Mahony, D Ryan, P O'Connell, D O'Callaghan, BJ Botha, D Varley, W du Preez.


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