Familiar foes Munster and Sale Sharks will put their winning records in this season’s Heineken Cup on the line in a Sunday showdown that really whets the appetite.
HEINEKEN CUP – POOL 1: Sunday, October 19
SALE SHARKS v MUNSTER, Edgeley Park, 1pm (live Sky Sports 2/HD2)
Team News: Ian Dowling has recovered from the knock he sustained last week against Montauban to be named in the Munster team for Sunday’s Heineken Cup Pool 1 encounter with Sale Sharks.
However, Dowling’s back-line colleague Rua Tipoki failed a fitness test on Friday morning and has been ruled out of contention.
Tipoki’s hamstring injury has forced coach Tony McGahan to reshuffle his back-line with Keith Earls moving from full-back to partner Lifeimi Mafi in midfield and Paul Warwick handed the number 15 jersey.
Tomas O’Leary has recovered from a leg injury to edge out Peter Stringer for the scrum half berth.
McGahan said: “We gave Tomas a couple of days to fit in. He came through Wednesday where he did a little bit of work and then yesterday morning’s session.”
McGahan makes just one change up front with John O’Sullivan coming into the back row in place of Justin Melck, who drops to the replacements bench. O’Sullivan will start at openside flanker with David Wallace at number 8.
Explaining that change, McGahan said: “John has played very well for us whenever he’s been called on.
“He’s a very good ‘on-the-ground’ type of player whose style will complement the back row given the tight pitch and type of game we expect.”
Meanwhile, New Zealand Maori second row Kristian Ormsby is suspended for Sale’s second Heineken Cup pool game.
Ormsby was cited and banned for one week for striking Julien Pierre during the Sharks’ 32-15 win at Clermont Auvergne last weekend.
But centre Rudi Keil has been cleared to play against Munster.
He appeared before an independent disciplinary committee this week following his citing for a dangerous tackle on Clermont’s Benoit Baby.
The committee found that Keil was not guilty and the South African avoided a suspension.
Sale supremo Philippe Saint-Andre is without the services of powerful England prop Andrew Sheridan (shoulder), but the pacy Mathew Tait has recovered from a hamstring injury to be named on the replacements bench.
Experienced duo Jason White and Charlie Hodgson are also benched, with the Sale starting line-up including only three players who started the club’s last meeting with Munster – that 31-9 loss in Limerick in January 2006.
Winger Mark Cueto, lock Sebastien Chabal and flanker Chris Jones are the only survivors, although starting number 10 Richard Wigglesworth and the benched White, Hodgson and Dean Schofield also featured in the Thomond Park clash.
Saint Andre said: “The win against Clermont last week was a massive achievement but is now consigned to the record books.
“If we were to lose this weekend we would undo all the good work of last week.
“Munster may only just have won last week (against Montauban), but they are a great side and we expect a big performance from them on Sunday.
“Edgeley Park is sold out and it should be a great occasion for everyone.”
SALE SHARKS: Rory Lamont; Mark Cueto, Luke McAlister, Rudi Keil, David Doherty; Richard Wigglesworth, Dwayne Peel; Lionel Faure, Neil Briggs, Eifion Roberts, Sebastien Chabal, Brent Cockbain, Chris Jones, Luke Abrahams, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (capt).
Replacements: Marc Jones, Stuart Turner, Dean Schofield, Jason White, Charlie Hodgson, Mathew Tait, Chris Bell.
MUNSTER: Paul Warwick; Doug Howlett, Keith Earls, Lifeimi Mafi, Ian Dowling; Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary; Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell (capt), Alan Quinlan, John O’Sullivan, David Wallace.
Replacements: Denis Fogarty, Federico Pucciariello, Donnacha Ryan, Justin Melck, Peter Stringer, Barry Murphy, Kieran Lewis.
Referee: Christophe Berdos (France)
Assistant Referees: Jean-Luc Rebollal, Eric Gauzins (both France)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Sale Sharks to win: Evens; Draw: 20/1; Munster to win: 4/5
Pre-Match Quotes: Alan Quinlan (Munster) – “Look, the fact of the matter is we got out of it (the Montauban game) with four points.
“We managed that after going behind to a very late penalty and I think we’ll take that as a plus rather than dwell too much on the negatives.
“Of course, we got out of jail, if you want to use that expression. So too did Toulouse the following day against Bath. But we’ll take that.
“(Our last visit to Edgeley Park) was a disaster really, from the team’s point of view and my own personally. We lost 27-13.
“I twisted my knee in a tackle and at first thought, well I hoped, it wasn’t too bad, but as it turned out, I didn’t play again for most of the rest of the season. Got back in time for the final which was great.
“I’d rate Sale very highly. They high up in the (Guinness) Premiership and you only have to look and see what they did in Clermont last time. That was a phenomenal performance.
“We’ve been there. We know how tough it is. We did well to get one point and they go over and take five? A great result for them and they’ll have their tails up.
“Their ground is tight and the crowd really get behind them.
“They have quality players right across the field, Rory Lamont at full-back, Mark Cueto, (Luke) McAlister in the centre and Dwayne Peel and the likes of (Juan Martin) Fernandez Lobbe, Andrew Sheridan and (Sebastien) Chabal.
“It’s a very impressive squad. They could afford to leave the likes of Charlie Hodgson and Jason White on the bench for the game in Clermont.
“So yes, I think it would be fair to say I’d have the highest regard for them. From our point of view, like we said going into the game last week, we must concentrate on our own game. On how we want to play.
“Maybe we didn’t do that last time. Or didn’t do it to a high enough degree. And yes we got away with it. It’s something we’ve spoken about and it something we can’t repeat.”
Dwayne Peel (Sale Sharks) – “A win this weekend is the important thing. It would leave us sitting pretty going into the next phase of games.
“Looking at the pool, the winners will probably have to go away and win twice at least.
“It’s been a massive help to get a win (like last week’s in Clermont) which may prove vital but we need to back it up.
“If you’re below par against Munster they’ll punish you and strangle the life out of you.”
Luke McAlister (Sale Sharks) – “(For opposition teams) it’s not easy coming to Stockport. It’s not a nice place for teams to play. We’ll give Munster a warm welcome.
“One of the reasons I came over here was to play in the big stuff and (the Clermont game) was my first taste of it. I was up for it. To get the points was huge, but we’ve got to stay grounded.
“We’ve got to back up the win in France by beating Munster. Playing like stars one week, and losing the next, is something we’ve addressed.
“Munster have had that winning ability come what may and that’s what we’ve got to acquire.”
Heineken Cup Top Scorers – Sale Sharks: Points: Luke McAlister 17; Tries: Mark Cueto, Luke McAlister, David Doherty, Rudi Keil 1 each; Munster: Points: Ronan O’Gara 14; Tries: Barry Murphy 1
Current Form – Sale Sharks (Guinness Premiership): Won 14-9 away to Newcastle Falcons; Won 18-15 at home to Saracens; Won 9-6 away to Bristol; Won 23-9 at home to Gloucester; Lost 28-6 away to London Irish; (EDF Energy Cup): Lost 18-17 at home to Cardiff Blues); (Heineken Cup): Won 32-15 away to Clermont Auvergne
Munster (Magners League): Won 20-15 away to Edinburgh; Won 50-6 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Won 28-20 at home to the Cardiff Blues; Won 18-0 away to Leinster; Won 25-17 at home to Glasgow Warriors; (Heineken Cup): Won 19-17 at home to Montauban
Previous European Meetings: 2
Saturday, January 21, 2006 – Pool 1 – Munster 31 Sale Sharks 9, Thomond Park
Friday, October 21, 2005 – Pool 1 – Sale Sharks 27 Munster 13, Edgeley Park
Heineken Cup Records:
Sale Sharks –
2006/07: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2005/06: Reached the quarter-finals
2003/04: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2002/03: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
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
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Munster to win by less than 7 points