The return of Jean Kleyn to the second row and the selection of Ian Keatley at out-half are the main talking points of the Munster team selected for Saturday’s European Champions Cup clash with Racing 92 in Thomond Park.
The Parisian visitors will have All-Black legend Dan Carter in the number 10 jersey and defence coach Ronan O’Gara will be on the sideline, despite a ten week touchline ban and a €15,000 fine imposed by the French Rugby Federation for remarks be made about Top 14 match officials earlier this month.
Now in his fifth season with Racing, O’Gara was in Limerick last season when his side put in an improved display on their home fixture but still lost 22-10.
O’Gara has had an opportunity to watch his old club in both European Cup and PRO 14 action.
“They have a lot of quality and I know that it’s all about Europe for them. The PRO14 has obviously got a new impetus since my time and they want to do well in that but nothing changes with regard to the Holy Grail,” he commented.
Munster fans, however will be denied the chance to see Donnacha Ryan line out for his new club.
The Nenagh second row is still recovering from a neck hernia that is expected to keep him out until the end of November. He has yet to play for Racing in the Top 14.
Ryan (33) left Munster in the summer after he was unable to secure a central contract from the IRFU, much to the dismay of Munster management. He played 167 games for the province over a 13-year career. His contract with Racing is for two seasons at what’s understood to be €300k per annum.
Racing will have their tails-up for their Limerick visit after a brilliant opening round win over Leicester Tigers in Paris on Saturday last.
Munster opened their latest European odyssey with a fortunate 17 -17 draw at sun-soaked Castres. But for a couple of missed kicks at goal from Benjamin Urdapilleta, all points would have gone to the home side
The Reds had won nine of the previous 12 meetings between the sides, but could not add to that number on their 159th Champions Cup appearance, which coincided with the first anniversary of coach Anthony Foley’s death in Paris.
Munster Rugby: Simon Zebo; Darren Sweetnam, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland, Peter O’Mahony (c), Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Liam O’Connor, John Ryan, Mark Flanagan, Jack O’Donoghue, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Andrew Conway
Racing 92: Pat Lambie; Joe Rokocoko, Henry Chavancy, Anthony Tuitavke, Louis Dupichot; Dan Carter, Maxime Machenaud (c); Eddy Ben Arous, Camille Chat, Ben Tameifuna, Bernard Le Roux, Leone Nakarawa, Wenceslas Lauret, Yannick Nyanga, Antonie Claassen
Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, Viliamu Afatia, Census Johnston, Baptiste Chouzenoux, Edwin Maka, Teddy Iribaren, Rémi Tales, Albert Vulivuli