For only the second time in 17 years Munster will not feature in the quarter-finals of Europe’s premier cup competition, but they will be aiming to restore some pride in front of their home fans in round 6.
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS CUP POOL 1: Sunday, January 25
MUNSTER (3rd) v SALE SHARKS (4th), Thomond Park, 3.15pm (live Sky Sports 1 HD/Newstalk/highlights TG4)
Team News: Munster head coach Anthony Foley has named his side to face Sale Sharks in the province’s final European Champions Cup game of the season at Thomond Park on Sunday.
Regular full-back Felix Jones failed to come through a late fitness test and will miss this weekend’s clash due to a bruised knee.
It is as you were in the front five with James Cronin, Duncan Casey and BJ Botha forming the front row while Dave Foley and Paul O’Connell combine again in the second row.
In the back row Dave O’Callaghan comes in at blindside flanker with Tommy O’Donnell filling the openside berth once more and captain Peter O’Mahony making the move to number 8 for the first time this season.
Duncan Williams and Ian Keatley continue at half-back with the fit-again Keith Earls making his first start since returning from injury alongside Denis Hurley in the centre.
Following his European debut last weekend, Ronan O’Mahony makes his first Champions Cup start with Andrew Conway remaining on the opposite wing, while Simon Zebo moves to full-back for what will be his 80th Munster appearance.
The replacements bench sees the inclusion of the returning Robin Copeland and Ivan Dineen who is in line to make his first European appearance if sprung from the bench.
Tickets are still available to purchase online by clicking here with prices starting from €;20 and Terrace Family Packs from €;60. Tickets can also be purchased at the Munster Rugby Ticket Offices at Irish Independent Park and Thomond Park, by calling 0818 719 300, or at the ground on matchday.
Meanwhile, forwards Ross Harrison, Josh Beaumont and David Seymour are the only survivors from the Sale Sharks team that started last week’s 22-13 home defeat to Clermont Auvergne.
Sharks boss Steve Diamond has decided to rest most of his first-choice players as they are bottom of their European pool and have some big LV= Cup and Aviva Premiership games around the corner.
Prop Harrison is joined in the front row by Italian international Alberto de Marchi and hooker Tommy Taylor, who is set for his first start of the season, while Beaumont reverts from number 8 to the second row where he is partnered by Russian international Andrei Ostrikov.
Seymour takes on the openside flanker and captaincy roles. He will have Mark Easter and Tonga’s Viliami Fihaki for company in the back row.
In the back-line, Italy’s Luke McLean, Tom Brady and Tom Arscott link up in the back-three, late inclusion Andy Forsyth is paired with Mark Jennings in the centre and Nick Macleod and Will Cliff are both promoted from the bench as the starting half-backs.
MUNSTER: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Denis Hurley, Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; James Cronin, Duncan Casey, BJ Botha, Dave Foley, Paul O’Connell, Dave O’Callaghan, Tommy O’Donnell, Peter O’Mahony (capt).
Replacements: Eusebio Guinazu, John Ryan, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Robin Copeland, Ivan Dineen, JJ Hanrahan, Pat Howard.
SALE SHARKS: Luke McLean; Tom Brady, Andy Forsyth, Mark Jennings, Tom Arscott; Nick Macleod, Will Cliff; Alberto de Marchi, Tommy Taylor, Ross Harrison, Andrei Ostrikov, Josh Beaumont, Mark Easter, David Seymour (capt), Viliami Fihaki.
Replacements: Cameron Neild, James Flynn, Ciaran Parker, George Nott, Andrew Hughes, Nathan Fowles, Joe Ford, Mike Haley.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Patrick Pechambert, Jean-Luc Rebollal (both France)
Television Match Official: Eric Gonthier (France)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 1/20; Draw: 40/1; Sale Sharks to win: 8/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Anthony Foley (Munster) – “It’s not easy but it does motivate you to get to the better days. It drives you to make sure these days don’t come back again. When we lift trophies, those will be the moments we know we have earned it.
“We know the one thing about this group is there are a lot of young players and they will get a lot stronger from it (the Saracens defeat). They are seeing a lot of real life stuff now in what people really think of them.
“We let ourselves down. We don’t need anybody telling us that. We’re all clued in enough to understand that and where we are.
“I also think the people that read the papers are the people that have supported us throughout our careers and have looked after us and they’re the ones probably getting the hurt out of that. If anything it will drive us Sunday to get a smile on the faces of people that really care about us. That will be the real motivation.”
Steve Diamond (Sale Sharks) – “We have lost at home to three sides – Saracens in the last minute, Munster in the last minute and we were beaten in the last 10 minutes (by Clermont last weekend).
“We’ve come a long way as a side in this competition but we’ve got a lot to do and a lot to work on. It’s good that we are playing against these kind of sides who are, week in and week out, probably better than us and we will learn from it.
“We are obviously in the top six of the (Aviva) Premiership and the goal for us is to qualify for this top European competition again. If you qualify, you want a group which has sides like Clermont, Munster and Saracens.”
Current Form – 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; Lost 26-19 away to Clermont Auvergne; (GUINNESS PRO12): Lost 21-18 away to Glasgow Warriors; Won 28-13 at home to Leinster; Lost 24-16 away to Connacht; Won 31-7 away to Zebre; (European Champions Cup): Lost 33-10 away to Saracens
Sale Sharks – (Aviva Premiership): Lost 29-20 at home to Bath; Lost 34-27 away to Gloucester; Won 46-8 at home to London Welsh; Lost 40-19 away to Saracens; Won 25-14 at home to Wasps; Lost 43-10 away to Northampton Saints; (European Champions Cup): Lost 27-26 at home to Munster; Lost 35-3 away to Clermont Auvergne; (LV= Cup): Won 32-29 at home to Wasps; Lost 29-13 away to Leicester Tigers; (Aviva Premiership): Won 36-8 at home to London Irish; Won 16-12 away to Harlequins; Won 18-13 away to Newcastle Falcons; (European Champions Cup): Lost 19-15 at home to Saracens; Lost 28-15 away to Saracens; (Aviva Premiership): Won 18-11 at home to Exeter Chiefs; Lost 32-30 at home to Leicester Tigers; Lost 41-16 away to Wasps; Won 20-7 at home to Northampton Saints; (European Champions Cup): Lost 22-13 at home to Clermont Auvergne
Top Scorers – 2014/15 European Champions Cup: Munster – Points: Ian Keatley 49; Tries: Dave Kilcoyne 2; Sale Sharks – Points: Danny Cipriani 32; Tries: Magnus Lund 2
Previous European Meetings: 5
Saturday, October 18, 2014 – Pool 1 – Sale Sharks 26 Munster 27, AJ Bell Stadium
Friday, January 16, 2009 – Pool 1 – Munster 37 Sale Sharks 14, Thomond Park
Sunday, October 19, 2008 – Pool 1 – Sale Sharks 16 Munster 24, Edgeley Park
Saturday, January 21, 2006 – Pool 1 – Munster 31 Sale Sharks 9, Thomond Park
Friday, October 21, 2005 – Pool 1 – Sale Sharks 27 Munster 13, Edgeley Park
Match Facts –
– Munster have won four in a row against Sale, with their two home matches in this run both resulting in points margins of over 20 points
– Sale Sharks have lost nine of their last 10 away games; these losses have come by an average margin of 22 points
– Munster suffered defeat in their most recent home game in the tournament, however they won all eight home games before that by an average margin of 22 points
– Sale Sharks’ Danny Cipriani has the best kick success rate (92%) of any player to attempt 10+ kicks at goal in the Champions Cup this season
European Cup Records:
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
2006/07: Reached the quarter-finals
2004/05: Reached the quarter-finals
2003/04: Reached the semi-finals
2002/03: Reached the semi-finals
2000/01: Reached the semi-finals
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
Sale Sharks –
2012/13: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2011/10: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2008/09: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2006/07: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2005/06: Reached the quarter-finals
2003/04: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2002/03: Failed to qualify from Pool 3