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Heineken Cup Preview: Munster v Racing Metro 92

Heineken Cup Preview: Munster v Racing Metro 92

Following Leinster’s result against Exeter Chiefs, Munster know that a four-try win at home to Racing Metro 92 will be enough to see them through to the last-eight of the Heineken Cup.

HEINEKEN CUP POOL 1: Sunday, January 20

MUNSTER (2nd) v RACING METRO 92 (3rd), Thomond Park, 12.45pm (live Sky Sports 2 red button and online/HD2/Newstalk/highlights TG4)

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Team News: As expected, Ian Keatley has been promoted to the Munster starting line-up in place of the suspended Ronan O’Gara for Sunday’s Heineken Cup Pool 1 encounter with Racing Metro 92 at Thomond Park.

O’Gara was suspended for one week following his citing for kicking Edinburgh lock Sean Cox in contravention of law 10.4(c).

Keatley will wear the number 10 jersey in O’Gara’s absence, as he did for the bonus point victory at home to Edinburgh back in October.

Head coach Rob Penney has made two personnel changes to the team that started the 26-17 success at Murrayfield last Sunday afternoon.

Full-back Felix Jones (knee) came through the final squad session on Friday unscathed and will start, as will Mike Sherry who has shaken off an ankle injury and edged out Damien Varley for the starting hooker role.

Sean Henry makes way as Varley drops to the replacements bench following Sherry’s promotion on Saturday, while JJ Hanrahan, a regular for the Munster ‘A’ side, will hope to come off the bench to win his sixth senior cap for the province.

Penney’s charges, who are second in Pool 1 behind Saracens, now know that a bonus point win over their French opponents will be enough to make sure they qualify as one of the two best runners-up.

Talking about the Edinburgh game and the squad’s approach to the crunch clash with Racing, second row Donnacha Ryan said: “Obviously we had a lot of unforced errors (against Edinburgh), but the conditions were quite tricky and we tried to force the game.

“Towards the end we kind of got very loose and allowed them in for two tries but it just verified what we did earlier on in the game by taking our penalties first.

“Racing have a massive amount of depth in their squad. We started off very well over there (in October) and we tried to do things that we wouldn’t have normally tried to do – obviously it backfired on us.

“So, we’ve got to be a lot smarter than the way we’ve played the first day and, I suppose, the way we’ve played the last couple of weeks.

“We’ve really got to focus on building a system and not doing silly stuff, not doing one-off runners and losing the ball in the breakdown. We have to tighten things up, to have more control when we have the ball in attack and make it count.”

Meanwhile, with Racing Metro 92 out of contention for the knock-out stages, their coaches have opted to make wholesale changes for the trip to Limerick.

Fijian winger Sireli Bobo is the only survivor in the back-line that started last weekend’s 37-28 defeat at home to pool leaders Saracens.

Juan Martin Hernandez, top try scorer Juan Imhoff and and centre duo Henry Chavancy and Fabrice Estebanez (suspended) are among the notable absentees in the backs division.

Former Bath and England centre/out-half Olly Barkley, who kicked a conversion and four penalties in the 22-17 opening round win over Munster, is hoping to wield similar influence in their final pool tie.

Up front former Munster prop Julien Brugnaut features in an all-new front row combination. The visitors’ pack is missing regulars like Dimitri Szarzewski, Luc Ducalcon, Francois van der Merwe and Fijian number 8 Masi Matadigo, who should see action off the bench.

Young lock Fabrice Metz will make only his second Heineken Cup start for Racing, pairing up with the experienced Karim Ghezal, while South African Jacques Cronje captains the team from number 8.

MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Doug Howlett (capt), Keith Earls, James Downey, Simon Zebo: Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, Donnacha Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Tommy O’Donnell, James Coughlan.

Replacements: Damien Varley, Wian du Preez, John Ryan, Billy Holland, Paddy Butler, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Casey Laulala.

RACING METRO 92: Gaetan Germain; Julien Jane, Guillaume Bousses, Alexandre Dumoulin, Sireli Bobo; Olly Barkley, Mathieu Belie; Julien Brugnaut, Benjamin Noirot, Benjamin Sa, Karim Ghezal, Fabrice Metz, Antoine Battut, Bernard Le Roux, Jacques Cronje (capt).

Replacements: Thomas Bianchin, Andrea Lo Cicero, Juan Pablo Orlandi, Jone Qovu Nailiko, Benjamin Fall, Santiago Dellape, Sebastien Descons, Masi Matadigo.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: JP Doyle, Robin Goodliffe (both England)
Television Match Official: David Grashoff (England)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 1/50; Draw: 40/1; Racing Metro 92 to win: 18/1

Pre-Match Quotes: Anthony Foley (Munster) – “We’ll have a fair idea of the requirements by kick-off on Sunday morning. Look, it’s not something that you try and do straight away (scoring four tries).

“You need to get into a game, you need to get into the rhythm, get certain things going, your game in order and the process right. You try and make sure you win the game first and from there you see where you lie.

“You always go out on the pitch and you look at the opponent across the line from you – you have massive respect for him and his preparation and his team’s preparation.

“You need to make sure you go about doing your job with the onus on respect, that’s about you playing to your best and making sure if they earn anything out of the game, that it is hard earned.

“That’s the way we need to approach this game. If we do that, we’ll be fine and we’ll get a big performance out of the players but if we get caught up on any distractions, then you come into stumbling blocks and we want to avoid them.

“So far in this group we’ve been in a position to win all five games. You think back to last year we were 20-20 in Castres and two points down at Thomond Park against Northampton and we managed to get two drop goals.

“There isn’t a massive difference from last year when we managed to get through the group stages unbeaten. If we win on Sunday and get a quarter-final place, it will be looked upon as success, just as it was last year.”

Current Form – Munster – (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 23-18 away to Edinburgh; Won 19-6 at home to Benetton Treviso; Lost 20-19 away to Ulster; Won 33-13 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Lost 30-15 away to the Ospreys; Lost 30-21 away to Leinster; (Heineken Cup): Lost 22-17 away to Racing Metro 92; Won 33-0 at home to Edinburgh; (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 29-3 at home to Zebre; Won 24-18 away to the Cardiff Blues; Lost 13-6 at home to the Scarlets; Won 31-3 at home to Glasgow Warriors; (Heineken Cup): Won 15-9 at home to Saracens; Lost 19-13 away to Saracens; (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 16-12 away to Connacht; Won 24-10 at home to Ulster; Lost 17-6 at home to the Cardiff Blues; (Heineken Cup): Won 26-17 away to Edinburgh

Racing Metro 92 – (Top 14 Championship): Won 24-20 away to Agen; Lost 23-21 at home to Toulon; Won 18-7 at home to Bordeaux-Begles; Lost 13-12 away to Clermont Auvergne; Won 25-18 away to Bayonne; Won 13-12 at home to Biarritz Olympique; Lost 27-13 away to Grenoble; Lost 16-12 at home to Montpellier; (Heineken Cup): Won 22-17 at home to Munster; Lost 30-13 away to Saracens; (Top 14 Championship): Lost 17-13 away to Perpignan; Lost 32-13 away to Toulouse; Lost 17-16 at home to Mont-de-Marsan; Won 23-15 at home to Stade Francais; (Heineken Cup): Won 19-9 at home to Edinburgh; Won 15-3 away to Edinburgh; (Top 14 Championship): Lost 31-10 away to Castres Olympique; Won 40-6 at home to Agen; Won 19-15 away to Toulon; (Heineken Cup): Lost 37-28 at home to Saracens

Top Scorers – 2012/13 Heineken Cup: Munster – Points: Ronan O’Gara 44; Tries: Sean Dougall, Conor Murray 2 each; Racing Metro 92 – Points: Olly Barkley 26; Tries: Juan Imhoff 4

Previous European Meetings: 1

Saturday, October 13, 2012 – Pool 1 – Racing Metro 92 22 Munster 17, Stade de France

Match Facts And Figures –

– Munster have won their round 6 tie for the past five seasons. Their only defeat in this round since 2002 was 13-6 at home to Leicester Tigers in January 2007

– Munster have lost just two home pool games in the history of the Heineken Cup, 37-32 to Cardiff in Cork in September 1997 and 13-6 to Leicester in Limerick on January 20, 2007

– 20 French clubs have played on Munster soil in the Heineken Cup with no wins to show

– Racing Metro 92 grabbed three tries in the first 20 minutes against Saracens but failed to secure a try-scoring bonus point, only Leicester Tigers have managed this in less playing time (three tries in 18 minutes but no further scores against London Wasps in December 2004)

– Alongside Montpellier, Munster have missed fewer tackles than any other team in this season’s Heineken Cup, averaging 7.4 misses per game

Heineken Cup Records:

Munster –
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

Racing Metro 92 –
2011/12: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 2