Munster favourites over French

Munster Rugby Press Conference - Wednesday 4th DecemberMUNSTER return to Heineken Cup action this Sunday 8 afternoon as they entertain Perpignan at Thomond Park (kick off at 12.45pm).

The first game in the back to back series of European fixtures sees Munster enter the tie as leaders of the RaboDirect Pro12. Rob Penney’s men, who have lost only one domestic game this season, face Perpignan of France who currently lie in ninth on the the Top14 table.

Munster will have to prepare for this weekend’s game without the services of latest signing, Gerhard van den Heever. The South African winger broke a bone in his right hand against Newport Gwent Dragons on Friday 29 night last.

Van den Heever, who is not registered for the Heineken Cup, is ruled out of action for the immediate future and will see a specialist this week to determine the full extent of the injury.

Munster’s resident number eight, James Coughlan suffered a left eye trauma in the same game and the Cork native will see a specialist as a precautionary measure, while doubts remain over Mike Sherry’s availability for this weekend’s game as the hooker is struggling badly with a knee injury.

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Rob Penney’s selection headaches will come in the pack more so than the backline, with Cronin/Kilcoyne and Archer/Botha the main areas for discussion ahead of the game.

Irish international Conor Murray will return at nine for the game, while Keith Earls may feature once more on the wing.

The Rabo Pro12 leaders will enter the game as strong favourites following their domestic league form. The Peter O’Mahony led side have been on a run of five games unbeaten, while their opposition this weekend have been on somewhat of a downward curve in form.

The French side have lost their last three games. A 30-23 loss to Clermont last time out came on the back of losses to Toulon and Oyonnax in the Top 14.

The Marc Delpoux coached side is captained by French international Nicolas Mas and are currently top of Pool six on six points, with one win and one loss from their opening two games.

Should Perpignan bring a full strength side to Thomond Park, Munster fans can expect to see some interesting and familiar names on the team sheet.

Welsh international James Hook could play a vital role for the French. The former Ospreys is Perpignan’s top scorer in this season’s competition with 33 points.

While former Munster star Lifeimi Mafi might be suspended for this weekend’s game, fans in attendance can still expect to see players such as Luke Narraway, David Marty and Kisi Pulu on show.

Munster have won five of their seven Heineken Cup games against Perpignan, scoring a 34-17 win in 2009 the last time the two sides met.

The game, which is being televised on Sky Sports, will be refereed by Greg Garner of the RFU.