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Heineken Cup Semi-Final Preview: Saracens v Munster

Heineken Cup Semi-Final Preview: Saracens v Munster

Munster will lock horns with their former coach Alan Gaffney and first-time semi-finalists Saracens on Sunday as they bid to qualify for their second Heineken Cup final in three seasons.

2007/08 HEINEKEN CUP SEMI-FINAL: Sunday, April 27

SARACENS v MUNSTER, Ricoh Arena, 3pm (live Sky Sports 2/highlights RTE Two)

Team News: Munster have named their team for Sunday’s Heineken Cup semi-final encounter with Saracens.

Both Ronan O’Gara and Paul O’Connell are included in the starting line-up, while Marcus Horan will also take his place in the front row having been a late withdrawal for the quarter-final.

The Munster side is the same as the one originally selected for the quarter-final against Gloucester three weeks ago.

On that occasion, Tony Buckley was drafted into the side in the minutes runnng up to kick-off after Horan suffered a back spasm in the warm-up.

Horan returns to the starting side this weekend and the only changes to the province’s matchday squad are on the replacement bench.

Federico Pucciariello replaces Buckley, Donnacha Ryan is included ahead of Anthony Foley and Barry Murphy gets the nod over Kieran Lewis after an impressive showing against the Ospreys last weekend.

Meanwhile, Saracens coach Alan Gaffney has named the same back-line that ran in five tries against London Wasps last weekend, but it is in the pack where he has made four changes for Sunday’s game.

The experienced England and Lions stalwart Richard Hill returns to the starting line-up while Matt Cairns, Kris Chesney and Cobus Visagie have also been named in the side.

Brent Russell suffered a recurrence of his hamstring injury during the week and as a result is ruled out of contention.

Chris Jack (hand), Andy Farrell (shoulder) and former Munster hooker Andy Kyriacou (knee) are the other Sarries players ruled out through injury.

SARACENS: Richard Haughton; Francisco Leonelli, Kevin Sorrell, Adam Powell, Kameli Ratuvou; Glen Jackson, Neil de Kock (capt); Nick Lloyd, Matt Cairns, Cobus Visagie, Hugh Vyvyan, Kris Chesney, Paul Gustard, Richard Hill, Ben Skirving.

Replacements: Fabio Ongaro, Cencus Johnston, Tom Ryder, Donald Barrell, Mosese Rauluni, Gordon Ross, Dan Scarbrough.

MUNSTER: Denis Hurley; Doug Howlett, Lifeimi Mafi, Rua Tipoki, 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, Denis Leamy.

Replacements: Frankie Sheahan, Federico Pucciariello, Mick O’Driscoll, Donnacha Ryan, Peter Stringer, Paul Warwick, Barry Murphy.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

Munster: Heineken Cup Factfile

Heineken Cup Statistics: Saracens v Munster

In Pics: Munster Training At The UL Bowl

Coach Speak: Alan Gaffney (Saracens) – “We had to make some tough (selection) decisions and there were some disappointed players. Everyone in the squad realises that this is a huge stage to play on and we’ve picked a side which we believe can win the game.

“We’ve got a tough task in facing Munster who have qualified for the knock-out stages in this competition for the last 10 years.

“For Saracens, this is a first but one message we have tried to get across to the players is the opportunity they have – not just in terms of proving they can both perform and belong at the highest level but also to make the final of the competition.

“The Heineken Cup is the pinnacle of club rugby but we’re not satisfied with having made the semi-finals of the competition. Very few teams get this far – that is why we must seize this chance.

“But we will have to front up. If we don’t do that against Munster we are in for a very long afternoon.

“They have some formidable players and when you look through their squad, you realise you are facing practically an international side – just as we did in the quarter-finals against the Ospreys. So we can expect the intensity to be fierce and near Test match level.

“However, we know that if we perform to our ability we have the players who can compete and there are areas we believe we can match or better them – the key is to play to our strengths.”

Declan Kidney (Munster) – “Alan Gaffney is a lovely man and he will be very pleased that Saracens finished in the top four in England last season and now they have reached the Heineken Cup semi-final.

“We’ll both go at it on Sunday but at the end of the game I can assure you that we will shake hands and be the best of friends. Alan made a big impact on the squad while he was here.

“Saracens’ scrum is a major machine. They also have quality on the bench and Alan will field strong wherever strength is needed.

“(Glen) Jackson runs the show for them at half-back and don’t forget that Saracens ran in five tries last weekend against Wasps.

“That is more than we scored against Wasps in our two pool games.

“The main recollection that I have from the two meetings with Saracens in 1999 and 2000 was that they were most gracious in defeat and showed us great respect.

“Both of those games were memorable occasions. The Ricoh is a smashing stadium and Sunday is going to be a great game with a terrific atmosphere.

“I’ve said before that we are very fortunate to have such a strong squad and with nearly everyone available, it’s always a very difficult side to pick.

“That in turn is a great reflection on the players themselves and on the medical/strength and conditioning staff who have done so well to have the players in the condition they’re in at this stage of the season.

“We’ve seen a lot of good performances in recent weeks and we believe the selection reflects that.”

Top Scorers: 2007/08 Heineken Cup – Points: Saracens: Glen Jackson 112; Munster: Ronan O’Gara 89; Tries: Saracens: Richard Haughton 5; Munster: Shaun Payne, Rua Tipoki, Brian Carney and Marcus Horan 2 each.


Sunday, November 28, 1999 – Pool 4 – Saracens 34 Munster 35, Vicarage Road
Scorers: Saracens: Tries: Jeremy Thomson, Nick Walshe, Roberto Grau; Cons: Mark Mapletoft, Thierry Lacroix; Pens: Thierry Lacroix 5
Munster: Tries: Jeremy Staunton, Killian Keane, Mike Mullins, Anthony Foley; Cons: Ronan O’Gara 3; Pens: Ronan O’Gara 3

Saturday, January 8, 2000 – Pool 4 – Munster 31 Saracens 30, Thomond Park
Scorers: Munster: Tries: Jason Holland, Keith Wood, Mick Galwey; Cons: Ronan O’Gara 2; Pens: Ronan O’Gara 4
Saracens: Tries: Mark Mapletoft 2, Darragh O’Mahony; Cons: Thierry Lacroix 3; Pens: Thierry Lacroix 3


– Toulouse and Munster will both wear red in their semi-finals – and they will have the home dressing rooms at Twickenham and the Ricoh Arena respectively.

Saracens will wear their traditional all-black strip and London Irish will be wearing their green and white jersey

– Five Munster players – Ronan O’Gara, Peter Stringer, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan and Anthony Foley – have appeared in a record six semi-finals

– Saracens qualified for the Heineken Cup semi-finals for the first time with a 19-10 win over the Ospreys at Vicarage Road in front of a tournament record crowd for the club of 18,214

– With five tries, Richard Haughton is the joint leading try scorer in this season’s competition with Aurelien Rougerie of Clermont Auvergne and Vincent Clerc of Toulouse

– Saracens out-half Glen Jackson is the leading points scorer in this year’s competition so far with 112 points and he has extended his club record to 182

– Munster dominated Guinness Premiership leaders Gloucester at Kingsholm in front of 16,500 spectators to book a place in their seventh Heineken Cup semi-final

– Anthony Foley has now increased his all-time Heineken Cup appearance record to 86 matches. He has the amazing record of being the only player to play in all 13 seasons of the Heineken Cup. Fabien Pelous has played in 12

– In round 5 of the pool matches against Clermont Auvergne, Ronan O’Gara scored 14 points and became the first players in the history of the Heineken Cup to break the 900-point barrier. He has now scored 89 points this season and 930 points in total

– Munster’s quarter-final match at Gloucester was the 91st they have played in the competition. Only Toulouse with 92 have played more