Niall Scannell will become the fifteenth member of the current squad to accumulate 100 Munster caps when they visit Racing 92 in the Heineken Champions Cup on Sunday (kick-off 4.15pm local time/3.15pm Irish time).
The Ireland hooker is one of seven players retained from the side that lost 38-17 to Ulster in Belfast last Friday. He is joined in an all-international front row by Dave Kilcoyne and Stephen Archer, with Jean Kleyn and Billy Holland also restored as the lock pairing.
Arno Botha makes way for the returning CJ Stander at number 8, in a back row completed by captain Peter O’Mahony, who knows his side have to be back to their best in the French capital, and in-form openside Jack O’Donoghue.
Only a win will do for the Munstermen with Racing currently six points clear at the top of Pool 4. Saracens could also move above the province into second place following their visit to the Ospreys tomorrow – Sarries currently have 10 points with Johann van Graan’s men just a point better off.
O’Mahony commented: “We should be performing and playing well. You have to have your internationals performing and we mightn’t have over the last couple of weeks, so we better get that sorted.
“We have been competitive, but competitive isn’t good enough for us, we have got to perform better at times. But it’s a competition that we enjoy and we love, I love taking the field on a Saturday or Sunday and being in Europe.
“I get my confidence from the group, from the people around me and knowing what we’re capable of when we play well – when we perform well and our heads are in the right place. I love the fact that everyone at Munster loves it as well and we’ve got to love it, because it’s going to be tough on Sunday afternoon.”
Mike Haley, the man-of-the-match winner from November’s 21-21 home draw with Racing, forms the back-three with Andrew Conway and Keith Earls who both touched down during that fiercely-contested game.
JJ Hanrahan will don the number 10 jersey at the Paris La Defense Arena, making a timely recovery from a hamstring injury with Tyler Bleyendaal and Joey Carbery both currently sidelined. Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell and Conor Murray complete the back-line.
Craig Casey and Shane Daly, two young backs with bright futures in Munster red, have both made the matchday 23 and are in line to earn their Champions Cup debuts off the bench.
Meanwhile, Munster confirmed earlier this week that Carbery sustained a wrist ligament injury against Ulster last Friday. He has undergone surgery and has been ruled out for the immediate future, expected to be three to four months. Tadhg Beirne underwent successful ankle surgery last week.
MUNSTER (v Racing 92): Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Jeremy Loughman, John Ryan, Arno Botha, Chris Cloete, Craig Casey, Dan Goggin, Shane Daly.