Munster simply cannot afford to slip up at home to Gloucester on Saturday evening, having come away from Murrayfield last weekend with just a losing bonus point.
HEINEKEN CUP POOL 6: Saturday, October 19
MUNSTER (3rd) v GLOUCESTER (2nd), Thomond Park, 6pm (live Sky Sports 2 HD/RTÉ Radio 1/highlights TG4)
Team News: Munster head coach Rob Penney has made a number of changes to the starting line-up for Saturday’s Heineken Cup encounter with Gloucester at Thomond Park.
The one change to the back-line sees Johne Murphy take the place of the injured Simon Zebo on the left wing, and in the pack Penney introduces Damien Varley, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan and captain Peter O’Mahony.
Murphy, who travelled as a backs reserve last weekend, comes straight into the starting team as does O’Mahony who was ruled out of the Edinburgh clash.
James Coughlan makes way for the province’s returning skipper this Saturday and Donnacha Ryan shifts to blindside flanker where he replaces the injured Paddy Butler.
O’Callaghan resumes his second row partnership with O’Connell as Varley and Botha join David Kilcoyne in the front row. Cathal Sheridan takes the place of Duncan Williams on the bench.
Category B Stand tickets (€;40) and North/South Terrace tickets (€;30) are still on sale for the Munster v Gloucester tie, with Category A tickets and East/West Terrace tickets sold out at this stage.
Tickets are on sale online here and are available from the Munster Rugby ticket offices in Thomond Park and Musgrave Park and Ticketmaster outlets nationwide, or by calling 0818 719300. Tickets will also be available to purchase on match day.
Meanwhile, the Pool 6 tie will be a memorable occasion for more than one reason for Gloucester second row Will James, as he skippers the team on his 150th competitive appearance for the club.
James will lead a side that got its Heineken Cup campaign off to a winning start last weekend with a 27-22 success at Kingsholm over Perpignan.
The Welsh international captains a side which retains just three players from the starting line-up for the Perpignan game – Jonny May, Ryan Mills and Mike Tindall – as director of rugby Nigel Davies lives up to his promise to rotate the squad.
MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Keith Earls, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Johne Murphy; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell, Donnacha Ryan, Niall Ronan, Peter O’Mahony (capt).
Replacements: Mike Sherry, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, James Coughlan, CJ Stander, Cathal Sheridan, JJ Hanrahan, Denis Hurley.
GLOUCESTER: Martyn Thomas; Charlie Sharples, Mike Tindall, Ryan Mills, Jonny May; Jonny Bentley, Dan Robson; Dan Murphy, Darren Dawidiuk, Rupert Harden, Lua Lokotui, Will James (capt), Matt Cox, Akapusi Qera, Ben Morgan
Replacements: Dan George, James Gibbons, Yann Thomas, James Hudson, Gareth Evans, Tavis Knoyle, Freddie Burns, Rob Cook.
Referee: Jerome Garces (France)
Assistant Referees: Alexandre Ruiz, Sébastien Clouté (both France)
Television Match Official: Eric Gauzins (France)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 1/10; Draw: 25/1; Gloucester to win: 6/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Conor Murray (Munster) – “The whole squad has a belief in our game plan (overall this season) and there’s nothing wrong with the way we’ve been playing.
“We were creating chances in the game against Edinburgh but we just didn’t convert due to individual errors by the whole squad at the end of it. I don’t think you can coach or train a team how to prevent that happening.
“However, we’re moving on with it, there was a huge lift in intensity and concentration (this week) and there were very few mistakes, so there is a reaction there already.
“It’s been brought up in our meetings (about how Munster cannot afford another slip up) and the comfort I am taking from it anyway is that we had a similar situation last year and managed to get through it.
“If you look at the team now as compared to last year, we’re a lot stronger and we have a lot more belief in the way we’re playing.”
Nigel Davies (Gloucester) – “When the draw was made, this one stood out and we’re looking forward to it. There’s a rich history between Gloucester and Munster.
“It’s a huge challenge for us. They’re coming off the back of, what would be for them, a bad loss and I’m sure they’re going to come out all guns blazing, which they always do at Thomond Park anyway.
“It was good to go there in pre-season for the experience, although the crowd will be up a few levels on what we experienced then for that friendly. But we’ve had a feel for the place and the players will know what to expect in terms of the stadium, etc.”
Current Form – 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
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
Top Scorers – 2013/14 Heineken Cup: Munster – Points: Ian Keatley 13; Tries: Casey Laulala, Mike Sherry 1 each; Gloucester – Points: Billy Twelvetrees 17; Tries: Jonny May, Jimmy Cowan 1 each
Previous European Meetings: 5
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 And Figures –
– Gloucester have won five of their last six Heineken Cup games against Irish provinces, losing only to Munster in the 2007/08 quarter-finals
– Munster have lost their last two Heineken Cup games (they have not lost three consecutive games since 2007)
– At home, Munster have won 13 of their last 14 matches in the Heineken Cup, the solitary defeat coming at the hands of Ulster
– This will be the sixth meeting between these teams in the tournament. All four pool meetings to date have produced home victories
Heineken Cup Records:
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
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