Prop Stephen Archer is the only player retained in the Munster team to play defending champions Saracens in Saturday’s vital Heineken Champions Cup tussle at Thomond Park (kick-off 5.30pm). Match tickets are available to buy online here.
Peter O’Mahony captains a Munster XV showing 14 changes from last week’s Edinburgh game. There are three personnel switches to the side that drew with Racing 92 the previous week as Archer, James Cronin and Billy Holland are added to the tight five.
Mike Haley, Andrew Conway and Keith Earls are the in-form back three combination, while Chris Farrell and Rory Scannell start again outside JJ Hanrahan and Conor Murray at half-back. Tyler Bleyendaal (neck stiffness) and Joey Carbery (ankle) remain sidelined.
200-cap man Archer and Cronin pack down with Niall Scannell in the front row, Holland rejoins Jean Kleyn in the engine room, and the province’s rejigged back row has Tadhg Beirne at blindside flanker, O’Mahony at openside, and CJ Stander in his regular number 8 role.
On a bench which includes six forwards, reserve scrum half Nick McCarthy is poised to make his first Champions Cup appearance for Munster. Johann van Graan’s men are currently level with Racing on seven points at the top of Pool 4, with Sarries two points behind.
Relishing another encounter with England’s leading club, O’Mahony said: “We’ve been here before. As soon as you drop points, it’s backs against the wall stuff a little bit. That’s how important your home games are and, again, it’s cup rugby from early on.
“They’re games you need to be picking up points in for both sides. It has to bring out the best in teams because you have a huge amount of fear – of losing in Thomond Park, for one, and the bigger scheme of things is obviously Europe.
“We love competing in this competition so it’s a huge drive for us. It’s a huge factor to be out of it. Saracens are incredibly professional and the standard setters of this competition. They’re going to be as professional and, as they always turn out, we’re expecting an immaculate performance at the weekend.”
MUNSTER (v Saracens): Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony (capt), CJ Stander.
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Liam O’Connor, John Ryan, Fineen Wycherley, Jack O’Donoghue, Nick McCarthy, Sam Arnold, Arno Botha.