Tuesday 23 April 2019

Van Graan's Munster ready to catch these Tigers by their tails

Munster head coach Johann van Graan and Simon Zebo in conversation
Munster head coach Johann van Graan and Simon Zebo in conversation

Munster head coach Johann van Graan will enter into the hearth of a Champions Cup rivalry today that will have all the heat he can take, despite the near freezing forecast for Limerick.

Munster and Leicester come to this argument level on six points in Pool Four with the latter holding a 'points-difference' advantage of 14.

The East-Midlands club have won five of the previous eight matches between these two, including two back-breaking wins in Thomond Park.

The first broke Munster's unbeaten stranglehold in 2007 and the second was a more dominant show in 2015.

Matt O'Connor's second coming at Leicester has been working well given the limitations they are restricted to in the transfer market compared to other English clubs.

The assembly of England half-backs Ben Youngs and George Ford gives them real fooballing intelligence in key decision-making positions.

However, it doesn't make for a rock solid defensive link-up.

This is where Munster's driving game around the fringes can turn this into a battle for the big boys. The book of evidence on flanker Chris Cloete doesn't run to many pages.

But, the energy and aggression taken out by the South African on The Ospreys last week was impressive.

Then, there is the hard-edge of Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander and the set-piece strength of Jean Kleyn.

Rhys Marshall is a more than adequate replacement for Niall Scannell, the most likely successor to Rory Best for Ireland.

It is out the back where Munster have gone for an entirely Irish-qualified seven with Sam Arnold at outside centre and Alex Wootton on the wing.

The relative inexperience there should make it a night for their forward's.

Munster: S Zebo; A Conway, S Arnold, R Scannell, A Wootton; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, R Marshall, S Archer, J Kleyn, B Holland, P O'Mahony (capt), C Cloete, CJ Stander. Replacements: K O'Byrne, B Scott, J Ryan, D O'Shea, J O'Donoghue; D Williams, JJ Hanrahan, D Sweetnam.

Leicester: T Veainu; A Thompstone, M Smith, M Tait, J May; G Ford, B Youngs; K Traynor, T Youngs (capt), D Cole, M Fitzgerald, G Kitchener, T Mapapalangi, L Hamilton, S Kalafamoni. Replacements: H Thacker, L Mulipola, C Baumann, D Barrow, M Williams; S Harrison, J Ford, N Malouf.

Verdict: Munster.

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