A repeat of the province’s 2008 quarter-final win at Kingsholm would do nicely as Munster’s current crop bid for their second successive away victory in this season’s Heineken Cup.
HEINEKEN CUP POOL 6: Saturday, January 11
GLOUCESTER (2nd) v MUNSTER (1st), Kingsholm, 6pm (live Sky Sports 2 HD/Newstalk/highlights TG4)
Team News: Head coach Rob Penney has made six changes to the side beaten by Ulster, with Conor Murray the most notable inclusion as Munster travel to Gloucester for a crucial Heineken Cup round 5 fixture on Saturday.
Murray is set to win his 50th cap in his first appearance since injuring his knee against Perpignan five weeks ago.
Hooker Damien Varley retains his place in the starting line-up despite limping off at Ravenhill with a foot injury, but it is not as bad as first feared and Varley is fit to start.
Aside from returning scrum half Murray, there are three other changes in the backs with Keith Earls, Johne Murphy and James Downey all resuming behind the scrum.
Earls is back on the right wing after missing out last week with a bruised shoulder with Downey, who was sidelined with an irritated groin, returning to partner Casey Laulala in the centre.
Murphy comes into the side on the left wing with out-half Ian Keatley and full-back Felix Jones keeping their places in the side.
There are two changes in the forwards as BJ Botha and David Foley are drafted into the pack. It will be a a big day for Tipperary man Foley as it is the lock’s first appearance in the Heineken Cup.
Penney has gone for an all-international front row with props David Kilcoyne and South African Botha either side of Varley.
Foley is included after impressing off the bench against Ulster last time out and he partners Ireland captain Paul O’Connell in the second row.
The back row remains unchanged with Munster skipper Peter O’Mahony, Tommy O’Donnell and James Coughlan in good form heading into the Kingsholm showdown.
Simon Zebo is named on the bench as he returns to the province’s matchday squad for the first time since cracking a bone in his foot against Edinburgh in October.
Donncha O’Callaghan and JJ Hanrahan are also among the replacements after overcoming their recent injury issues.
Meanwhile, former Ireland Under-20 winger Shane Monahan will make his first Heineken Cup start for Gloucester against Munster this weekend.
Monahan’s return on the left wing is one of a number of changes that director of rugby Nigel Davies makes to the Gloucester side that started against Saracens last weekend.
In the back-line, Jonny May moves from the left wing in to outside centre and Dan Robson gets the nod at scrum half.
Up front, Yann Thomas and Darren Dawidiuk are selected at loosehead prop and hooker respectively and Gareth Evans will start at number 8.
Evans replaces Ben Morgan who has battled to overcome a knock picked up against Saracens, and who will line up amongst the replacements.
Also back in the matchday squad for the first time in several weeks is Tongan international Sione Kalamafoni, who returns from injury.
After two wins in the Aviva Premiership, Gloucester slipped to a 29-8 defeat at home to Saracens which was a setback according to Davies.
“It was disappointing, because even though we’re nowhere near where we need to be, we’ve been competitive in matches in the majority of cases,” he said.
“So, we’ve worked through that, and the players have acknowledged that they didn’t put in the performance that the shirt and the supporters deserve.
“We’ve got a lot to do this week to make sure that everybody sees that the shirt, the venue, the supporters mean everything to this group of players.”
GLOUCESTER: Martyn Thomas; Charlie Sharples, Jonny May, Billy Twelvetrees (capt), Shane Monahan; Freddie Burns, Dan Robson; Yann Thomas, Darren Dawiduik, Sila Puafisi, Elliot Stooke, James Hudson, Matt Cox, Matt Kvesic, Gareth Evans.
Replacements: Huia Edmonds, Dan Murphy, Shaun Knight, Tom Hicks, Sione Kalafamoni, Tavis Knoyle, Rob Cook, Ben Morgan.
MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Keith Earls, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Johne Murphy; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, BJ Botha, David Foley, Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Tommy O’Donnell, James Coughlan.
Replacements: Duncan Casey, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Donncha O’Callaghan, CJ Stander, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Simon Zebo.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris, Wayne Davies (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Gloucester to win: 9/4; Draw: 22/1; Munster to win: 4/11
Pre-Match Quotes: David Kilcoyne (Munster) – “Gloucester are a side steeped in tradition, they’re a bit like us in that they take huge pride in their forwards and in their set piece.
“They got beaten badly (by Saracens) last week in front of their home crowd so they’ll be gunning for blood this week and we’ve a mammoth task ahead of us going over there. They don’t want to be beaten twice, especially at home.
I definitely think Gloucester will be wise to it – any team doing match analysis after that (Ulster) game will see that we got two scores off the maul and a third that was disallowed or whatever.
“We do live mauling every (week). Axel (Anthony Foley) and Rob (Penney) put huge emphasis on our scrum and our maul and lineout.
“It is the foundation of what Munster is built on. To get tries against Ulster on the back of it was great. It is an area Gloucester will target and try and eliminate for us.”
Charlie Sharples (Gloucester) – “It will be a massive challenge for us, but one thing we have learnt from (last weekend’s Aviva Premiership loss to) Saracens is we have to step our game up.
“Munster are similar to Saracens in the respect that they’re a very clinical team. They have a good set of forwards, a solid set piece, good defence and are generally a very difficult team to play.
“It’s not a massively flash game but they’re good at what they do and when it goes behind to the backs in a broken field they throw the ball around.
“We’ll look at the things that didn’t go well against Saracens and learn from them. Then we’ll look at Munster in detail and try to put on a better show.”
Current Form – Gloucester – (Aviva Premiership): Lost 22-16 at home to Sale Sharks; Lost 44-12 away to Saracens; Won 26-24 at home to Northampton Saints; Won 22-16 away to Newcastle Falcons; Lost 29-12 at home to Exeter Chiefs; (Heineken Cup): Won 27-22 at home to Perpignan; Lost 26-10 away to Munster; (Aviva Premiership): Lost 15-13 away to Bath; Lost 32-30 at home to London Wasps; (LV= Cup): Lost 33-6 away to Northampton Saints; Won 20-3 at home to Newcastle Falcons; (Aviva Premiership): Lost 27-19 away to Harlequins; Lost 22-17 at home to Leicester Tigers; (Heineken Cup): Won 23-12 away to Edinburgh; Lost 16-10 at home to Edinburgh; (Aviva Premiership): Won 12-6 at home to Worcester Warriors; Won 22-19 away to London Irish; Lost 29-8 at home to Saracens
Munster – (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 34-23 at home to Edinburgh; Won 43-21 away to Zebre; Lost 29-19 away to Benetton Treviso; Won 23-9 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Won 19-15 at home to Leinster; (Heineken Cup): Lost 29-23 away to Edinburgh; Won 26-10 at home to Gloucester; (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 13-6 away to Glasgow Warriors; Won 12-6 at home to the Ospreys; Won 31-10 away to Cardiff Blues; Won 18-14 away to the Newport Gwent Dragons; (Heineken Cup): Won 36-8 at home to Perpignan; Won 18-17 away to Perpignan; (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 16-10 at home to the Scarlets; Won 22-16 at home to Connacht; Lost 29-19 away to Ulster
Top Scorers – 2013/14 Heineken Cup: Gloucester – Points: Billy Twelvetrees 17; Tries: Martyn Thomas 2; Munster – Points: Ian Keatley 44; Tries: Casey Laulala, Mike Sherry, Damien Varley, Johne Murphy, Sean Dougall, David Kilcoyne, Keith Earls, James Coughlan , JJ Hanrahan 1 each
Previous European Meetings: 6
Saturday, October 19, 2013 – Pool 6 – Munster 26 Gloucester 10, Thomond Park
Saturday, April 5, 2008 – Quarter-final – Gloucester 3 Munster 16, Kingsholm
Saturday, January 17, 2004 – Pool 5 – Munster 35 Gloucester 14, Thomond Park
Saturday, January 10, 2004 – Pool 5 – Gloucester 22 Munster 11, Kingsholm
Saturday, January 18, 2003 – Pool 2 – Munster 33 Gloucester 6, Thomond Park
Saturday, October 12, 2002 – Pool 2 – Gloucester 35 Munster 16, Kingsholm
Match Facts & Figures –
– Gloucester have lost their last three Heineken Cup ties against Munster – a run which includes the 26-10 defeat at Thomond Park in round 2
– Munster have won four of the six meetings between the teams, losing two. Both of Gloucester’s victories over Munster – in 2002 and 2004 – were at Kingsholm
– Munster have made the most passes per match (163) in the tournament to date
– Going into round 5, Gloucester’s tackling success rate of 91% is the joint highest in the tournament (along with Leinster)
– Gloucester’s lineout success rate (90%) is the best in the competition whereas Munster are on 81% (16th best)
– Munster have the best ball retention rate at the breakdown, winning 96% of rucks when taking the ball into contact
– Against Irish opposition, Gloucester have won eight games and lost six in the Heineken Cup
– When it comes to average Amlin Opta Index scores, Gloucester’s Ben Morgan features as one of the top 10 players in Europe. In his three appearances, he has made 39 carries for a gain of 157 metres (beating 13 defenders) and completed 30/31 tackles
– Munster have the fourth best lineout unit this season based on the Amlin Opta Index, while Gloucester boast the fifth best lineout in European club rugby
Heineken Cup Records:
2011/12: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2009/10: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2008/09: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2007/08: Reached the quarter-finals
2006/07: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2004/05: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2003/04: Reached the quarter-finals
2002/03: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2000/01: 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