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Heineken Cup Preview: Racing Metro 92 v Munster

Heineken Cup Preview: Racing Metro 92 v Munster

The Stade de France has not been a happy hunting ground for Irish sides over the years, but Munster could buck that trend when they tackle Racing Metro 92 at the Saint-Denis venue on Saturday.

HEINEKEN CUP POOL 1: Saturday, October 13

RACING METRO 92 v MUNSTER, Stade de France, 2.35pm local time/1.35pm Irish time (live Sky Sports 1/HD1/Canal+/highlights TG4)

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Team News: Having shown no ill-effects from a full training session in Cork on Wednesday, Paul O’Connell has been named in Munster’s starting line-up for their opening Heineken Cup game against Racing Metro 92.

O’Connell will pack down in the second row alongside Billy Holland, who will start in place of the injured Donncha O’Callaghan (hamstring).

The experienced lock has recovered from knee and back injuries and is set to play for the first time since Munster’s RaboDirect PRO12 win over Ulster back in May.

O’Callaghan sat out Wednesday’s training session at Cork IT and was quite hopeful of being fit, but this afternoon the call was made to withdraw him from the squad.

Elsewhere in the pack, David Kilcoyne retains the number 1 jersey in the absence of Wian du Preez who sustained a knee injury against Leinster. It will be the 23-year-old Limerick man’s Heineken Cup debut.

Donnacha Ryan’s experience was a probable factor in him getting the blindside berth ahead of David O’Callaghan who is named on the bench.

Speaking of O’Connell’s inclusion, Munster head coach Rob Penney said: “We’ve always maintained that he’d be back when he felt he was ready. I think it’s great for us.

“It’s great for Irish rugby, for the rugby community to see a player of his calibre back playing again. It was a gradual process. In the interests of the player it had to be.”

In the back-line, Ian Keatley comes in at full-back for Denis Hurley, who will hope to have an impact off the bench, while the injured Keith Earls makes way for James Downey in the centre.

Meanwhile, England international Olly Barkley has been parachuted straight into the Racing Metro team after the club registered him as an additional player for the Heineken Cup.

Barkley, who recently moved from Bath, will start at out-half having made his debut as a second half replacement in last weekend’s 16-12 league defeat to Montpellier.

He comes in for Mathieu Belie who has joined fellow number 10s Jonathan Wisniewski and new signing Benjamin Dambielle on an extensive early season injury list.

Racing will field a strong starting line-up, although Juan Martin Hernandez will not be involved. He only returned to the club earlier week after making five appearances for Argentina in the recently concluded Rugby Championship.

Julien Jane and Italy’s Mirco Bergamasco return to the Parisians’ back-line, while Andrea Lo Cicero gets the loosehead spot in the front row and Bernard Le Roux makes way for Fijian Masi Matadigo in the back row.

RACING METRO 92: Benjamin Fall; Julien Jane, Mirco Bergamasco, Fabrice Estebanez, Julien Saubade; Olly Barkley, Maxime Machenaud; Andrea Lo Cicero, Dimitri Szarzewski, Luc Ducalcon, Karim Ghezal, Francois van der Merwe, Antoine Batut, Jacques Cronje (capt), Masi Matadigo.

Replacements: Thomas Bianchin, Eddy Ben Arous, Benjamin Sa, Fabrice Metz, Bernard Le Roux, Camille Gerondeau, Sebastien Descons, Virimi Vakatawa.

MUNSTER: Ian Keatley; Doug Howlett (capt), Casey Laulala, James Downey, Simon Zebo; Ronan O’Gara, Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, BJ Botha, Billy Holland, Paul O’Connell, Donnacha Ryan, Sean Dougall, Peter O’Mahony.

Replacements: Mike Sherry, Marcus Horan, Stephen Archer, David O’Callaghan, Paddy Butler, Peter Stringer, Danny Barnes, Denis Hurley.

Referee: Greg Garner (England)
Assistant Referees: David Rose, Andrew Pearce (both England)
Television Match Official: Trevor Fisher (England)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Racing Metro 92 to win: 5/6; Draw: 22/1; Munster to win: Evens

Pre-Match Quotes: Donnacha Ryan (Munster) – “Racing are a very, very good side. They’re very, very tough up front and have a very strong pack so we’re going to have our work cut out in the forwards.

“If we can just focus on our own game and bring a big physicality towards it, we could be in a good place. When you are away from home, especially in France, the crowd can get behind them and give them a big advantage so it is important for us to have a good start no matter who we are playing.

“Having a good start is half the battle really and back our fitness because I think we finished really strongly last weekend (during the interpro game against Leinster), and that’s good to take forward to this weekend.

“We have fantastic confidence in each other and especially in the way we play, this team is built on belief.

“It is definitely going to be a very tough game on Saturday but you have to have some sort of belief in yourself that you can achieve a result over there.”

Current Form – 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

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

Previous European Meetings: 0

Heineken Cup Records:

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

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