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Heineken Cup Preview: Munster v Perpignan

Heineken Cup Preview: Munster v Perpignan

Munster will target their second successive home win in this season’s Heineken Cup when French side Perpignan come calling on Sunday afternoon.

HEINEKEN CUP POOL 6: Sunday, December 8

MUNSTER (2nd) v PERPIGNAN (1st), Thomond Park, 12.45pm (live Sky Sports 2 HD/Newstalk/highlights TG4)

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Team News: Munster head coach Rob Penney has named a strong team for the crunch Heineken Cup round 3 match against Perpignan at Thomond Park on Sunday.

Team captain Peter O’Mahony and Conor Murray are both included in the starting line-up for the first time since October, having featured for Ireland during the recent GUINNESS Series.

Penney has made six changes to the side that extended Munster’s winning run to five games last weekend against the Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade.

There are three changes in the backs with Murray coming in to partner Ian Keatley – the man-of-the-match in Newport – at half-back.

Casey Laulala returns to the side and lines up alongside James Downey in the centre positions.

Laulala’s inclusion means that Keith Earls moves out to the right wing with Johne Murphy selected on the left wing and Felix Jones keeping his place at full-back.

Damien Varley is the only change in the front row as the hooker replaces the injured Mike Sherry with Ireland internationals David Kilcoyne and Stephen Archer keeping their starting places.

The second row of Donncha O’Callaghan and Paul O’Connell remains the same, but there are two changes in the back row with skipper O’Mahony and Sean Dougall coming into the team.

James Coughlan starts at number 8 after recovering from the eye injury he sustained during the victory over the Dragons.

Billy Holland is named on the bench for the first time in this season’s Heineken Cup alongside Shannon hooker Duncan Casey who could make his competitive debut for the province.

Munster currently lie second in Pool 6 of the Heineken Cup, a point behind Perpignan.

Category A and B tickets are now sold out for Sunday afternoon’s game with only terrace tickets remaining.

There are still north terrace family packs available for just €;40 for one adult and one junior (under-16). Terrace tickets can be purchased online here and on matchday.

Meanwhile, Lifeimi Mafi will miss out on facing his former side Munster as he is suspended for the game due to the six-week ban he picked up for being sent-off against Gloucester in the opening round.

The Tongan-born centre is one of the notable absentees from the selected Perpignan team for the round 3 trip to Limerick.

Versatile Welsh back James Hook, who scored 33 points in the opening two rounds, will captain the visitors from full-back with fellow Wales international Luke Charteris in the second row.

There is another familiar name in the Perpignan pack – Scottish flanker Alasdair Strokosch – while Fijian powerhouse Watisoni Votu will require some watching in midfield.

Perpignan come into this game on the back of three straight defeats, including last weekend’s 30-23 league loss to Clermont Auvergne – during which South African speedster Wandile Mjekevu suffered a strained ankle and forwards Giorgi Jgenti (wrist), Romain Taofifénua (knee) and Luke Narraway (hip) also picked up injuries.

MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Keith Earls, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Johne Murphy; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, Stephen Archer, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Sean Dougall, James Coughlan.

Replacements: Duncan Casey, James Cronin, BJ Botha, Billy Holland, CJ Stander, Cathal Sheridan, JJ Hanrahan, Denis Hurley.

PERPIGNAN: James Hook (capt); Joffrey Michel, Tommaso Benvenuti, Watisoni Votu, Sofiane Guitoune; Camille Lopez, Tom Ecochard; Sébastien Taofifenua, Romain Terrain, Paulica Ion, Luke Charteris, Guillaume Vilaceca, Jean-Pierre Perez, Alasdair Strokosch, Justin Purll.

Replacements: Maxime Delonca, Kisi Pulu, Jean Baptiste Custoja, Sébastien Vahaamahina, Dewaldt Duvenage, Tommy Allan, Richard Haughton, Dan Leo.

Referee: Greg Garner (England)
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth, Stuart Terheege (both England)
Television Match Official: Sean Davey (England)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 1/12; Draw: 28/1; Perpignan to win: 11/2

Pre-Match Quotes: Peter O’Mahony (Munster) – “First things first and I know you’re probably expecting me to say it but now more than ever, the way this pool has gone, the win for us at the weekend is paramount.

“We know anything else and we’re out so it’s cup rugby from here on in. We knew that since the final whistle in Edinburgh went that it was cup rugby from then on and that’s the way we’re going to be treating it.

“We’ve got to go out on Sunday and get a win. There’s nothing else we can accept. The performance that day (in round 1 against Edinburgh) wasn’t good enough and as soon as the final whistle went we knew for the next five (European) games, you’ve got to win all of them. 

“Obviously we would like to have two out of two now but with the cards we’ve been dealt, maybe it makes things easier for us that we know what we’ve got to do is to win every game.

“Maybe there’s a bit of a positive out of that, that we know exactly what we’ve got to do. Obviously that’s not ideal but we’ll just have to get on with it.

“I think Perpignan have a pack that can compete with anyone in Europe – they’re a big, physical pack and an excellent set piece. The big thing at the weekend is it’s going to be a physical encounter and that’s what we’ve got to get ourselves ready for.

“From 1 to 15 we’ve got to be physical and not disappoint these guys come Sunday. They’ll be expecting it and hopefully we’ll be able to give it to them.”

Lifeimi Mafi (Perpignan) – “I was pretty excited when I saw the draw, (I was) obviously looking forward to going back to Thomond Park as that’s a place I hold dearly. To go back and play in front of the people there would have been a big honour.

“It will be unusual to be on the other side but that is rugby and this is home now here in Perpignan. I have made this my home with my family and my friends.

“I think Munster can expect a typical Perpignan welcome (next week) – physical in the breakdown with big forwards and backs that like to play.

“A lot of the lads have moved on (from Munster) but I keep in touch with a few of them, guys like Denis Hurley and Simon Zebo – the odd text here and there.

“But the team has totally changed, even the management and backroom staff, it has moved on. That’s all part of rugby, teams have to move on and keep growing.”

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; 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

Perpignan  – (Top 14 Championship): Won 26-23 at home to Castres Olympique; Lost 28-27 at home to Stade Francais; Lost 31-20 away to Bayonne; Won 36-13 at home to Grenoble; Lost 19-16 away to Racing Metro 92; Won 28-16 at home to Montpellier; Lost 31-6 away to Brive; Won 20-16 at home to Toulouse; Won 16-12 away to Biarritz Olympique; (Heineken Cup): Lost 27-22 away to Gloucester; Won 31-14 at home to Edinburgh; (Top 14 Championship): Won 31-20 at home to Bordeaux-Begles; Lost 22-9 away to Oyonnax; Lost 15-9 away to Toulon; Lost 30-23 at home to Clermont Auvergne

Top Scorers – 2013/14 Heineken Cup: Munster – Points: Ian Keatley 29; Tries: Casey Laulala, Mike Sherry, Damien Varley, Johne Murphy 1 each; Perpignan – Points: James Hook 33; Tries: Wandile Mjekevu 2

Previous European Meetings: 7

Sunday, December 20, 2009 – Pool 1 – Perpignan 14 Munster 37, Stade Aime Giral
Friday, December 11, 2009 – Pool 1 – Munster 24 Perpignan 23, Thomond Park
Saturday, April 1, 2006 – Quarter-Final – Munster 19 Perpignan 10, Lansdowne Road
Saturday, January 11, 2002 – Pool 2 – Perpignan 23 Munster 8, Stade Aime Giral
Saturday, October 19, 2002 – Pool 2 – Munster 30 Perpignan 21, Thomond Park
Saturday, October 31, 1998 – Pool B – Munster 13 Perpignan 5, Musgrave Park
Saturday, October 10, 1998 – Pool B – Perpignan 41 Munster 24, Stade Gilbert Brutus

Heineken Cup Records:

Munster –
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
2007/08: Champions
2006/07: Reached the quarter-finals
2005/06: Champions
2004/05: Reached the quarter-finals
2003/04: Reached the semi-finals
2002/03: Reached the semi-finals
2001/02: Runners-up
2000/01: Reached the semi-finals
1999/00: Runners-up
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

Perpignan –
2010/11: Reached the semi-finals
2009/10: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2008/09: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2007/08: Reached the quarter-finals
2006/07: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2005/06: Reached the quarter-finals
2004/05: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2003/04: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2002/03: Runners-up
2001/02: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
1998/99: Reached the semi-finals