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European Champions Cup Preview: Clermont Auvergne v Munster

European Champions Cup Preview: Clermont Auvergne v Munster

Clermont Auvergne managed to swap places with Munster at the top of European Champions Cup Pool 1 last weekend, so can the Reds bite back on Sunday and end the French side’s own formidable record at the Stade Marcel Michelin?


CLERMONT AUVERGNE (1st) v MUNSTER (2nd), Stade Marcel Michelin, 4.15pm local time/3.15pm Irish time (live Sky Sports 2 HD/RTÉ Radio 1/highlights TG4)

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Team News: Munster head coach Anthony Foley has named his team to take on Clermont Auvergne in round 4 of the European Champions Cup at the Stade Marcel Michelin on Sunday.

After suffering a first home defeat to the French outfit last Saturday, Foley has made four changes to the starting line-up for the return fixture.

In the pack, loosehead prop John Ryan is the only change as he comes in for the injured Dave Kilcoyne and James Cronin to make his first start in Europe.

In the back-line, there is a new centre partnership with JJ Hanrahan starting in the number 12 jersey and the returning Andrew Smith named outside him.

With injury ruling out Gerhard van den Heever, Andrew Conway returns to take his position on the right wing.

Meanwhile, Morgan Parra returns for Clermont Auvergne from a two-month shoulder injury absence, starting at half-back this weekend alongside Camille Lopez.

There are three other changes to the team that lined out in the 16-9 victory at Thomond Park, with New Zealander Zac Guildford getting the nod on the left wing.

Up front, Clément Ric makes way for Georgian international Davit Ziraskashvili at tighthead prop and Alexandre Lapandry links up with captain Damien Chouly and Fritz Lee – the man-of-the-match in Limerick – in the back row.

Out-half Lopez commented: “It is a source of pride for us as a group that we were the first French side to win at Munster, but we have to keep in mind that was only part one.

“We have savoured the result but we have kept ourselves focused because we know we will need to perform at a similar level and with similar fight because Munster are going to be wanting revenge (this weekend).”

CLERMONT AUVERGNE: Nick Abendanon; Noa Nakaitaci, Aurélien Rougerie, Wesley Fofana, Zac Guildford; Camille Lopez, Morgan Parra; Thomas Domingo, Benjamin Kayser, Davit Zirakashvili, Jamie Cudmore, Sébastien Vahaamahina, Damien Chouly (capt), Alexandre Lapandry, Fritz Lee.

Replacements: John Ulugia, Raphael Chaume, Clément Ric, Julien Pierre, Julien Bardy, Ludovic Radoslavjevic, Brock James, Benson Stanley.

MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Andrew Conway, Andrew Smith, JJ Hanrahan, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; John Ryan, Duncan Casey, BJ Botha, Dave Foley, Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Eusebio Guinazu, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Robin Copeland, Duncan Williams, Denis Hurley, Johne Murphy.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Neil Hennessy, Sean Brickell (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Derek Bevan (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Clermont Auvergne to win: 1/5; Draw: 25/1; Munster to win: 10/3

Pre-Match Quotes: Conor Murray (Munster) – “To start well down there would be brilliant for us. It would give us that extra bit of belief that we probably need, that they probably got last Saturday night after 30 seconds. It probably settled them down a little bit, made them realise they could do it.

“You saw at the end what it meant to them, how they celebrated, so to have a chance over there especially, you are going to have to start well.

“Number one, be better, be more physical and win the collisions. But we always have little moves we can exploit, if we see weaknesses in an opponent. Like they managed to do against us.

“A backs move or a peel off a lineout, we always have four or five plays, whether it be scrum, lineout or kick-off, you try to exploit weaknesses and that’s what they did early on.

“We probably need to tighten up in a few areas. But yeah, we’ll always have a few little power plays. But to do those, you can’t even begin to talk about plays without winning collisions, without getting momentum on the ball.

“It is on us to go down there and perform and try and get a win. It is going to be huge for the group. I am not talking about bonus points or anything like that, it’s about going down there and performing.

“As good as they are, and they will probably be a different prospect this week, they will probably be running the ball a lot more, we’ve got to look at ourselves, our own performance and try and get that right, physically make an impact on the game, which is something we didn’t do (last Saturday), which is pretty crucial in the big games.”

Jono Gibbes (Clermont Auvergne) – “It was a positive outcome for the (Clermont) supporters (in Limerick). The team is a pretty special part of the community here, so they are happy for us that we did well but they also know what is coming around the corner and I think they are excited about Sunday and getting a chance to support their team.

“The support was pretty fantastic in Limerick. It is not an easy place to go but it was great for them to experience it and be a part of it.

“That was a big investment from them to come and support us in a tough place. We are expecting the same – I am sure Munster fans are going to travel even though it is a Sunday.”

Current Form – Clermont Auvergne – (Top 14 Championship): Won 30-26 at home to Grenoble; Lost 21-6 away to Brive; Won 21-20 at home to Montpellier; Won 32-6 at home to Racing Metro 92; Lost 13-9 away to Toulouse; Won 43-12 at home to Lyon; Lost 19-8 away to Oyonnax; Lost 51-21 away to Bordeaux-Bègles; Won 30-10 at home to La Rochelle; (European Champions Cup): Lost 30-23 away to Saracens; Won 35-3 at home to Sale Sharks; (Top 14 Championship): Lost 24-13 away to Bayonne; Won 51-9 at home to Stade Francais; Lost 27-19 away to Toulon; (European Champions Cup): Won 16-9 away to Munster

Munster – (GUINNESS PRO12): Lost 14-13 at home to Edinburgh; Won 21-10 away to Benetton Treviso; Won 31-5 at home to Zebre; Lost 19-14 at home to the Ospreys; Won 34-23 away to Leinster; Won 17-6 at home to the Scarlets; (European Champions Cup): Won 27-26 away to Sale Sharks; Won 14-3 at home to Saracens; (GUINNESS PRO12): Won 28-24 away to Cardiff Blues; Won 38-12 away to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Won 21-20 at home to Ulster; (European Champions Cup): Lost 16-9 at home to Clermont Auvergne

Top Scorers – 2014/15 European Champions Cup: Clermont Auvergne – Points: Camille Lopez 34; Tries: Zac Guildford, Napolioni Nalaga 2 each; Munster – Points: Ian Keatley 30; Tries: Dave Kilcoyne 2

Previous European Meetings: 6

Saturday, December 6, 2014 – Pool 1 – Munster 9 Clermont Auvergne 16, Thomond Park
Saturday, April 27, 2013 – Semi-final – Clermont Auvergne 16 Munster 10, Stade de la Mosson
Saturday, December 13, 2008 – Pool 1 – Munster 23 Clermont Auvergne 13, Thomond Park
Sunday, December 7, 2008 – Pool 1 – Clermont Auvergne 25 Munster 19, Stade Marcel Michelin
Sunday, January 13, 2008 – Pool 5 – Clermont Auvergne 26 Munster 19, Stade Marcel Michelin
Sunday, November 18, 2007 – Pool 5 – Munster 36 Clermont Auvergne 13, Thomond Park

Match Facts –

– Clermont Auvergne ended Munster’s 100% European Cup record against French teams at home, a run that had previously seen Munster win all 23 games against French visitors

– Munster’s Simon Zebo gained 81 metres in the meeting between these two sides last weekend, more than any other player on the pitch

– Clermont have won their last five home games against Irish opponents, while in total they have won 20 on the bounce on home soil

– Munster’s total of nine points in last weekend’ss game was their lowest haul in a home match in this competition since scoring six against Leicester in January 2007, the Reds had 26 matches in between these two occasions

European Cup Records:

Clermont Auvergne –
2013/14: Reached the semi-finals
2012/13: Runners-up
2011/12: Reached the semi-finals
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2009/10: Reached the quarter-finals
2008/09: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2005/06: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2002/03: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2001/02: Reached the quarter-finals
1999/00: Reached the quarter-finals

Munster –
2013/14: Reached the semi-finals
2012/13: Reached the semi-finals
2011/12: Reached the quarter-finals
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2009/10: Reached the semi-finals
2008/09: Reached the semi-finals
2007/08: Champions
2006/07: Reached the quarter-finals
2005/06: Champions
2004/05: Reached the quarter-finals
2003/04: Reached the semi-finals
2002/03: Reached the semi-finals
2001/02: Runners-up
2000/01: Reached the semi-finals
1999/00: Runners-up
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