Munster are the first provincial side into European Champions Cup action, making the trip across to face Sale Sharks in a mouth-watering Anglo-Irish clash at the AJ Bell Stadium.
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS CUP POOL 1: Saturday, October 18
SALE SHARKS v MUNSTER, AJ Bell Stadium, 1pm (live Sky Sports 2 HD/RTÉ Radio 1/highlights TG4)
Team News: Head coach Anthony Foley has named his first European matchday squad as Munster begin their inaugural European Champions Cup campaign away to Sale Sharks.
There are seven changes to the Munster team that defeated the Scarlets 17-6 in the GUINNESS PRO12 last weekend.
In the front row David Kilcoyne and Stephen Archer will start on either side of hooker Duncan Casey, who makes his first European start following five appearances off the bench in last season’s Heineken Cup.
David Foley resumes his second row partnership with Paul O’Connell as the Ireland captain returns to the matchday squad, while the back row of captain Peter O’Mahony, Tommy O’Donnell and CJ Stander remains unchanged.
Conor Murray and Ian Keatley pair up again at half-back, with inside centre Denis Hurley returning to partner Andrew Smith in the province’s midfield.
Winger Andrew Conway will make his first European appearance for the province, starting in a back-three that includes Simon Zebo and returning full-back Felix Jones.
While in the replacements, recent arrival Eusebio Guinazu and Robin Copeland are named in their first Munster European matchday squad.
Meanwhile, Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond has named his side for the game and welcomes back Sam Tuitupou – the ex-Munster centre – for his seasonal debut following an ankle injury he picked up in pre-season.
Sale lost 43-10 away to Aviva Premiership leaders Northampton Saints last weekend, and Diamond has reacted by making four changes in personnel.
Tuitupou, full-back Mike Haley, loosehead prop Eifion Lewis Roberts and lock Jonathan Mills will all start, with Magnus Lund, captain David Seymour and Mark Easter featuring in an unchanged back row.
SALE SHARKS: Mike Haley; Tom Brady, Jonny Leota, Sam Tuitupou, Tom Arscott; Danny Cipriani, Chris Cusiter; Eifion Lewis Roberts, Marc Jones, Vadim Cobilas, Jonathan Mills, Michael Paterson, Magnus Lund, David Seymour (capt), Mark Easter.
Replacements: Shalva Mamukashvili, Ross Harrison, Alberto de Marchi, Andrei Ostrikov, Josh Beaumont, Will Cliff, Joe Ford, Mark Jennings.
MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Andrew Conway, Andrew Smith, Denis Hurley, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne, Duncan Casey, Stephen Archer, David Foley, Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Eusebio Guinazu, James Cronin, BJ Botha, Billy Holland, Robin Copeland, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Gerhard van den Heever.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referees: Laurent Cardona, Thomas Déjean (both France)
Television Match Official: Bruno Bessot (France)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Sale Sharks to win: 2/1; Draw: 30/1; Munster to win: 4/11
Pre-Match Quotes: Anthony Foley (Munster) – “If you go through the history book you’ll see that Munster were never great before heading into a Heineken Cup game and that’s often the case for other sides.
“Sale are due a due a big performance and that’s what we’re going to get. We’ve watched more than just last weekend’s game (against Northampton) and we know they’ve got an ability to turn teams over and score some very impressive tries.
“With the likes of Tom Arscott on the wing, Chris Cusiter at 9, Danny Cipriani at 10 and their entire pack when they get going, Sale can attack from tight quarters and out wide.
“It’s important we look across the board at where they’re at, but one thing’s for sure, it will be a very physical contest.
“With such an early kick-off it’s important that guys still get the sufficient volume of food on board. It’s a bit different from the norm when we play so early in that they will get up at 7.30am for breakfast with another meal at 9.30am.
“It’s a lot of food to be taking in but they need it because of the exertions of the game. We need to sufficiently fuel the body to be as energetic as possible.”
Sam Tuitupou (Sale Sharks) – “This match will carry an extra edge for me as there’s quite a few boys still there (at Munster) who I played with. It’s always good to play against your former team and maybe there will be a few extra hits going in!
“Part of my motivation in getting fit has been to try and be ready for this game. It was one I was looking forward to right from when the draw was made back in June.
“There are a lot of my friends and family coming over from Ireland and, hopefully, I can change a few of them into Sale fans.
“It will possibly be the biggest crowd we’ve ever had at the AJ Bell so we’re all motivated for it and, hopefully, we can make it a really special day for our fans.
“Munster have probably been one of the top sides in the northern Hemisphere for the past 10 years. They have lost a few old heads from the team but I’m sure the young fellas they have got coming through will have had it nailed into them that this tournament is really special.
“Munster are a really physical side and they rely on their forwards to get their momentum. So, if we can get our pack to match theirs and sharpen up our attack and defence it could make the difference. With some of the form that our back-line have shown this season we could score some good tries.”
Current Form – 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
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
Previous European Meetings: 4
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 –
– 2010/11 was the only occasion that Munster failed to make it out of the Heineken Cup pool stages since the turn of the century
– These two teams have met four times in the Heineken Cup, with Munster winning three and Sale coming out on top in their first clash
– Munster won a higher percentage of their rucks and mauls (97%) than any other side in the Heineken Cup last season
– Munster averaged the most turnovers won in the Heineken Cup last season (11.9)
– Conor Murray amassed the most try assists in the Heineken Cup in 2013/14 (5)
European Cup Records:
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
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