Munster head coach Johann van Graan has made two enforced changes to the province’s back-line for their record 14th Heineken Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens at the Ricoh Arena (kick-off 3pm).
Keith Earls has unfortunately joined Joey Carbery (hamstring) in missing the eagerly-awaited clash. The two-try man-of-the-match from the quarter-final win in Edinburgh has not come through training this week, having suffered a thigh injury during the warm-up before their recent GUINNESS PRO14 victory over Cardiff Blues.
Darren Sweetnam switches across to the left wing berth with Mike Haley stationed at full-back. Carbery’s place at out-half is taken by Tyler Bleyendaal who impressed off the bench during Munster’s hard-fought 17-13 success at BT Murrayfield.
Haley, Sweetnam and flanker Jack O’Donoghue are the only players retained from last weekend’s win away to Benetton Rugby. Andrew Conway completes the back-three, Chris Farrell and Rory Scannell team up again in midfield, and Bleyendaal has Conor Murray alongside him at half-back.
The province’s unchanged set of forwards features Ireland internationals Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and John Ryan in the front row, and Jean Kleyn, who has shaken off a leg injury, and Tadhg Beirne pack down behind them.
Captain Peter O’Mahony, who joins forces with O’Donoghue and CJ Stander in the loose forwards, leads the side on his 50th Champions Cup appearance. The teak-tough flanker has started each of his 49 previous games in the tournament, including all 23 of Munster’s Champions Cup fixtures over the last three seasons.
Speaking ahead of the trip to Coventry, outside centre Farrell commented:
It’s our record 14th semi-final, but we can’t go into this one with the same mindset we previously have had. You can’t go out into these games and sit back and hope to win. We’ve got to enforce our game on them.
“The boys are extremely hungry, especially the ones that have been there (before). There’s an aura around weeks like this when Munster can progress in Europe. Saracens are are consistently a really physical side, so that will be key for us is to stop their momentum.
“They rely on set piece and the contact area. They have been one of the biggest forces in Europe in the last few years and won every game in the pool stages, but we won’t be giving anything away.”
MUNSTER (v Saracens): Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Darren Sweetnam; Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Jeremy Loughman, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Arno Botha, Alby Mathewson, JJ Hanrahan, Dan Goggin.