12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
Team News: Dolphin clubman James Coughlan is set to make his first Heineken Cup start having been named as number 8 in the Munster side to face Northampton Saints at Thomond Park on Saturday.
Coughlan's five previous appearances in the Heineken Cup have come off the bench but Saturday evening will see the Ireland Sevens international make his first start in the competition, in what will be his 40th provincial cap.
His inclusion at number 8 means David Wallace moves back to the openside flanker position, while Keith Earls' recovery from a groin injury leaves the back-line showing just one change from the one that faced Northampton back in January.
Earls renews his centre partnership with South African international Jean de Villiers, with Lifeimi Mafi dropping to the replacements bench.
Further good news for Munster is that their other groin injury sufferer, Paul O'Connell, has also been included in the side.
The province's captain and Earls trained in Cork on Thursday and both players took part in the Captain's Run training session on Friday evening.
Munster have only lost once at Thomond Park home in European competition, with Northampton's East Midlands rivals Leicester Tigers the only side to triumph at the famous stadium in January 2007. That is one defeat in 42 matches.
Meanwhile, Northampton's own skipper Dylan Hartley has recovered from a wrist injury to be named in the starting line-up for the Limerick encounter.
Hartley returns after missing last weekend's 14-7 Guinness Premiership win over Leeds Carnegie, while Stephen Myler has notably held onto the number 10 jersey, keeping Shane Geraghty out of the team.
Soane Tonga'uiha, Ireland flanker Neil Best and Jon Clarke are the other changes to the side that faced Leeds last time out.
Commenting on this weekend's crunch clash, Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder said: "It was a massive occasion at Thomond Park in January but Saturday evening there is a semi-final spot at stake.
"We have come a long way in a relatively short period of time, but we believe we can come home from Limerick with a positive result.
"We have prepared well this week and the players have been focused on the challenge in hand."
MUNSTER: Paul Warwick; Doug Howlett, Keith Earls, Jean de Villiers, Ian Dowling; Ronan O'Gara, Tomas O'Leary; Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Donncha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell (capt), Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, James Coughlan.
Replacements: Damien Varley, Julien Brugnaut, Tony Buckley, Mick O'Driscoll, Nick Williams, Niall Ronan, Peter Stringer, Lifeimi Mafi.
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS: Ben Foden; Chris Ashton, Jon Clarke, James Downey, Bruce Reihana; Stephen Myler, Lee Dickson; Soane Tonga'uiha, Dylan Hartley (capt), Euan Murray, Courtney Lawes, Juandre Kruger, Phil Dowson, Neil Best, Roger Wilson.
Replacements: Brett Sharman, Regardt Dreyer, Brian Mujati, Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, Mark Easter, Alan Dickens, Shane Geraghty, Joe Ansbro.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (France), Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)
Television Match Official: Derek Bevan (Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 4/11; Draw: 22/1; Northampton Saints to win: 11/5
Pre-Match Quotes: Jerry Flannery (Munster) - "It will probably stand Northampton in good stead that they were at Thomond Park in January and got a good taste for it.
"If you look at Sale in 2006, they didn't have any real experience of Thomond Park and were probably a bit shellshocked when they came out. The crowd was incredible that day.
"We are going to need the same thing again on Saturday. We need the crowd to be really giving it socks.
"Northampton will come over here and will probably feel they were a bit hard done by that they didn't come away with a win after the last pool match. They will be coming with all guns blazing.
"I have no doubt that Northampton are coming over here expecting to win the game. With the quality they have through their squad, the Irish lads I know they have, they are top players. Then you could have Tonga'uiha, Dylan Hartley and Euan Murray in the front row alone. They are top class players.
"You throw in Courtney Lawes and Neil Best and through their back-line with the likes of Geraghty, Reihana and Ashton. They are all very, very dangerous players. These guys will have no fear of coming over here and taking us on.
"It's the same question that's asked every time a visiting team comes over there - do you think they are going to be afraid coming over here? I don't think any team genuinely comes over there thinking that they are going to Thomond Park so they can't win.
"That is the reason you play, you think you can win. Otherwise they would just decide to give you a bye.
"They will be coming over here full of beans and expecting to win. It is up to us then to step up and try and get a result for Munster.
"Form has very little to do with it coming into the game. There are no bonus points or anything like that at stake. It is literally which team scores the most points comes out on top.
"It is up to us to take whatever positives we can from the Leinster match.
"From a team perspective there was a lot of intensity in the way we played against Leinster. We worked hard. I thought our set-piece functioned reasonably well.
"On the flip side, we didn't play a lot of heads up rugby. We didn't play with our heads. Leinster were happy to play the rugby ball down in our half and defend possession. I think we could have worked a little bit harder as a pack."
Roger Wilson (Northampton Saints) - "The last game at Thomond was close but I think maybe the atmosphere got to us. For 26,000 people to make that noise, I couldn't believe it! In the second half at one stage I could hardly hear myself think.
"It can inhibit you from playing the way you want to play and can stop you thinking at crucial times of the game. You can go into your shell a little bit and we were probably guilty of that slightly too much last time.
"Going over there this time, we know what to expect and hopefully it will not affect us too much.
"Munster have probably been the best team in Europe for the last 5, 6, 7 years. They've proved that by winning the Heineken Cup a couple of times and the Magners League and their record speaks for itself.
"But we believe we can do it. I think if everyone of the squad gives absolutely 100% and plays with a little bit more of their heads this time and just as much heart, I think we will give ourselves a chance."
Pre-Match Multimedia -
We're Ready To Deliver - McGahan
de Villiers: There's Everything To Play For
Current Form - Last Five Matches - Munster - (Magners League): Won 19-12 at home to Edinburgh; Lost 31-22 away to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Won 23-17 at home to the Scarlets; Won 27-19 at home to Glasgow Warriors; Lost 16-15 at home to Leinster
Northampton Saints (Guinness Premiership): Won 15-7 away to Sale Sharks; (LV= Cup semi-final): Won 31-20 at home to Saracens; (LV= Cup final): Won 30-24 over Gloucester (Sixways Stadium): (Guinness Premiership): Won 14-9 at home to London Wasps; Won 14-7 away to Leeds Carnegie
2009/10 Heineken Cup Pool Record - Munster - Pool 1: Lost 31-27 away to Northampton Saints; Won 41-10 at home to Benetton Treviso; Won 24-23 at home to Perpignan; Won 37-14 away to Perpignan; Won 44-7 away to Benetton Treviso; Won 12-9 at home to Northampton Saints
Northampton Saints - Pool 1: Won 31-27 at home to Munster; Lost 29-13 away to Perpignan; Won 30-18 at home to Benetton Treviso; Won 21-18 away to Benetton Treviso; Won 34-0 at home to Perpignan; Lost 12-9 away to Munster
2009/10 Heineken Cup Top Scorers - Munster - Points: Ronan O'Gara 83; Tries: Jean de Villiers, Ian Dowling 2 each; Northampton Saints: Points: Shane Geraghty 48; Tries: Chris Ashton 6
Previous European Meetings: 3
Friday, January 22, 2010 - Pool 1 - Munster 12 Northampton Saints 9, Thomond Park
Saturday, October 10, 2009 - Pool 1 - Northampton Saints 31 Munster 27, Franklin's Gardens
Saturday, May 27, 2000 - Final - Northampton Saints 9 Munster 8, Twickenham
Heineken Cup Records:
2008/09: Reached the semi-finals
2006/07: Reached the quarter-finals
2004/05: Reached the quarter-finals
2003/04: Reached the semi-finals
2002/03: Reached the semi-finals
2000/01: Reached the semi-finals
1998/99: Reached the quarter-finals
1997/98: Failed to qualify from Pool D
1996/97: Failed to qualify from Pool D
1995/96: Failed to qualify from Pool D
Northampton Saints -
2006/07: Reached the semi-finals
2004/05: Reached the quarter-finals
2003/04: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2002/03: Reached the quarter-finals
2001/02: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 1