Munster meet Castres Olympique for the 11th time in Heineken Cup history, eager to build on last weekend’s nail-biting home win over Northampton Saints. The French side are bottom of Pool 1 and have moved this match to the larger Stade Ernest Wallon in Toulouse.
HEINEKEN CUP: POOL 1: Saturday, November 19
CASTRES OLYMPIQUE (4th) v MUNSTER (2nd), Stade Ernest Wallon, 4.40pm local time/3.40pm Irish time (live Sky Sports 1/HD1)
Team News: In selecting his team to take on Castres Olympique at Stade Ernest Wallon on Saturday, Munster head coach Tony McGahan has given a vote of confidence to the side that started last weekend’s epic victory over Northampton Saints.
The only change to Munster’s matchday squad is on the replacements bench as the fit-again Marcus Horan returns at the expense of John Ryan, having recovered from an ankle injury.
Ryan’s turn will come, but Horan’s inclusion gives the Munster bench added strength, the worth of which was seen towards the latter stages of that memorably encounter with Northampton last Saturday night.
Not taking away for one second what the starters had produced up to then, but when Denis Leamy and Donncha O’Callaghan entered the fray Munster managed to up their collective efforts against Saints.
Tomas O’Leary, another impact replacement, also reminded everyone of the quality player he is and Heineken Cup newcomer Will Chambers fronted up as if he had been playing for Munster for years rather than just a few weeks.
But the Munster players and management are fully aware that all the hype and back-slapping from last weekend will become a distant memory if they cannot back it up this weekend against the French outfit.
Meanwhile, Scotland international Max Evans will make his first European start for Castres Olympique who will field a much-changed side.
From the team that started last weekend’s 31-23 defeat to the Scarlets in Llanelli, there are four changes in the backs division – Florian Denos at full-back, Evans on the right wing, Pierre-Manuel Garcia at inside centre and Pierre Bernard at out-half.
In the forwards, former All Black and club captain Chris Masoe will anchor the hosts’ scrum. He shifts to number 8, with Iosefa Tekori linking up with the Scotland-capped Scott Murray in the second row.
Brice Mach and Karena Wihongi have been called up for front row duty, while Masoe will ave Jannie Bornman and Yannick Caballero for company in the back row.
Among the replacements are free-scoring goal-kicker Romain Teulet and international forwards Luc Ducalcon (France) and Rodrigo Capo Ortega (Uruguay).
CASTRES OLYMPIQUE: Florian Denos; Max Evans, Paul Bonnefond, Pierre-Manuel Garcia, Marc Andreu; Pierre Bernard, Thierry Lacrampe; Anton Peikrishvili, Brice Mach, Karena Wihongi, Scott Murray, Iosefa Tekori, Jannie Bornman, Yannick Caballero, Chris Masoe (capt).
Replacements: Mathieu Bonello, Michaël Coetzee, Luc Ducalcon, Matthias Rolland, Rodrigo Capo Ortega, Romain Teulet, Rémi Tales, Pierre-Gilles Lakafia.
MUNSTER: Johne Murphy; Doug Howlett, Danny Barnes, Lifeimi Mafi, Denis Hurley; Ronan O’Gara, Conor Murray; Wian du Preez, Damien Varley, BJ Botha, Donnacha Ryan, Paul O’Connell (capt), Peter O’Mahony, Niall Ronan, James Coughlan.
Replacements: Denis Fogarty, Marcus Horan, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Denis Leamy, Tomas O’Leary, Ian Keatley, Will Chambers.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth, Paul Dix (both England)
Television Match Official: Geoff Warren (England)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Castres Olympique to win: 10/11; Draw: 20/1; Munster to win: 10/11
Pre-Match Quotes: Tony McGahan (Munster) – “Castres are a very good and a very consistent side. If you’ve been watching the Top 14 over the last two and a bit years, you see how they’ve progressed to being a top four side.
“They’ve established a very strong forward pack and the way their captain Chris Masoe has been playing the last few months has been terrific.
“They’ve a big forward pack, very strong, very physical, a set piece-dominated, very traditional French side. Then a strong 9 and 10 who kick the ball extremely well.
“(Romain) Teulet, who we know very well, is there to kick the penalties. Two big centres, (Romain) Cabannes and (Paul) Bonnefond, who are able to play through that channel one position, then play off the back of that. Impressive.
“They’ve had a wonderful start to this season, I know they came up short in the last few games but before that they’d beaten some top sides, Stade Francais, Toulouse, Biarritz. So we’re meeting a quality side, no doubt about that.”
Paul O’Connell (Munster) – “Castres are a big side, big pack, tough pack. Playing quite well, their maul was really strong against the Scarlets.
“They’ve beaten a lot of the top teams in the Top 14 this season and they’re third at the moment. We’ve had mixed fortunes over there over the years, so it’ll be a tough game.
“I think both sides have gone through a lot of changes (since we last met in Europe), they’re a really tough team. Obviously I’d spend a lot of time looking at the forwards, and particularly I looked at last weekend’s game they scored a try off a maul and were probably unlucky not to score a few more tries off mauls.
“They’re strong in the scrum, generally a very big pack, big back rows, big second rows and big front rows, so it’s going to be a big challenge away from home.
“I remember playing against (Rodrigo) Capo Ortega, obviously (Luc) Ducalcon the prop with France, played against him a few times, (Chris) Masoe in the back row has been a lynchpin for everything they’ve been doing recently – ball carrying, tackling, his work at the breakdown.
“He’s been a big part of everything they’re doing at the moment. And they’re all big men, big physical men and that’s how they play.”
Current Form – Castres Olympique – (Top 14 Championship): Lost 25-6 away to Perpignan; Won 35-10 at home to Stade Francais; Won 23-18 away to Biarritz Olympique; Won 30-11 at home to Agen; Won 30-24 at home to Brive; Won 18-16 away to Lyon; Won 24-3 at home to Toulouse; Won 21-16 at home to Montpellier; Lost 23-19 at home to Racing Metro 92; Lost 24-9 away to Bordeaux-Begles; (Heineken Cup): Lost 31-23 away to the Scarlets
Munster – (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 20-12 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Won 23-12 away to Glasgow Warriors; Won 35-12 at home to the Scarlets; Won 18-13 away to the Cardiff Blues; Lost 29-14 away to Edinburgh; Lost 17-13 at home to the Ospreys; Won 18-6 at home to Aironi Rugby; Lost 24-19 away to Leinster; (Heineken Cup): Won 23-21 at home to Northampton Saints
Previous European Meetings: 10
Friday, January 13, 2006 – Pool 1 – Castres Olympique 9 Munster 46, Stade Pierre Antoine
Saturday, October 29, 2005 – Pool 1 – Munster 42 Castres Olympique 16, Thomond Park
Saturday, December 11, 2004 – Pool 4 – Munster 36 Castres Olympique 8, Thomond Park
Friday, December 3, 2004 – Pool 4 – Castres Olympique 19 Munster 12, Stade Pierre Antoine
Saturday, April 27, 2002 – Semi-final – Castres Olympique 17 Munster 25, Stade de la Méditerranée
Saturday, January 12, 2002 – Pool 4 – Castres Olympique 21 Munster 13, Stade Pierre Antoine
Saturday, September 29, 2001 – Pool 4 – Munster 28 Castres Olympique 23, Thomond Park
Saturday, January 20, 2001 – Pool 4 – Munster 21 Castres Olympique 11, Musgrave Park
Saturday, October 14, 2000 – Pool 4 – Castres Olympique 29 Munster 32, Stade Pierre Antoine
Wednesday, November 8, 1995 – Pool D – Castres Olympique 19 Munster 12, Stade Antoine Beguere
Heineken Cup Records:
Castres Olympique –
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2008/09: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2006/07: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2005/06: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2004/05: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2001/02: Reached the semi-finals
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
1995/96: Failed to qualify from Pool D
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