Head coach Johann van Graan has named his Munster team for Sunday’s Champions Cup semi-final against Racing 92 in Bordeaux (kick-off 4.15pm local time/3.15pm Irish time).
The eagerly-awaited clash will be a record 13th European Cup semi-final for the province and their first trip to the Stade Chaban-Delmas since the famous 31-25 semi-final win over Toulouse 18 years ago.
There are two personnel changes and one positional switch to the Munster side that outlasted Toulon in an epic quarter-final meeting at Thomond Park. In a big boost for the Bordeaux game, Keith Earls returns from a knee injury to make his 150th Munster appearance, slotting in on the right wing.
Simon Zebo is the player to miss out, moving to the bench with Andrew Conway, the late try-scoring hero against Toulon, reverting to the full-back position. The rest of the back-line is unchanged with Sam Arnold and Rory Scannell – one of the province’s Player of the Year nominees – cementing the centre roles.
Niall Scannell gets the nod over Rhys Marshall at hooker in the only alteration up front. Dave Kilcoyne, Scannell and Stephen Archer combine in the front row, backed up by dependable second row duo Jean Kleyn and Billy Holland.
Captain Peter O’Mahony, Jack O’Donoghue, who has shaken off an ankle injury from the Cheetahs game, and CJ Stander are the starting back rowers, with Robin Copeland again providing back-up from the bench.
Rhys Marshall, James Cronin and John Ryan provide the front row cover, while former Racing 92 lock Gerbrandt Grobler is poised to make his second European appearance for Munster. James Hart, JJ Hanrahan and Zebo are the back-line options.
MUNSTER (v Racing 92): Andrew Conway; Keith Earls, Sam Arnold, Rory Scannell, Alex Wootton; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Rhys Marshall, James Cronin, John Ryan, Gerbrandt Grobler, Robin Copeland, James Hart, JJ Hanrahan, Simon Zebo.