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Heineken Cup Quarter-Final Preview: Harlequins v Munster

Heineken Cup Quarter-Final Preview: Harlequins v Munster

Munster will be making a record 14th appearance in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals when they take on reigning English champions Harlequins in a fascinating Sunday showdown at the Stoop.


HARLEQUINS v MUNSTER, Twickenham Stoop, 2pm (live Sky Sports 2/HD2/Canal+/Sky Italia/RTÉ Radio 1/highlights TG4)

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Team News: Simon Zebo has been passed fit to take his place in the Munster team for Sunday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final against Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop, but the province’s captain Doug Howlett misses out with a shoulder injury.

It will be Zebo’s first appearance for Munster since the home Heineken Cup clash with Racing Metro 92 in January, after which he injured a foot in Ireland’s second RBS Six Nations match against England.

Fellow winger Howlett damaged a shoulder in the act of reaching for the line to score a try last weekend against Glasgow Warriors. He sat out Tuesday’s training session at Musgrave Park before being ruled out for selection today.

Back into the side, however, come Ireland internationals Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony and Donnacha Ryan, who was also mentioned on Tuesday as a doubt, for the trip to the Twickenham Stoop.

Like Murray and O’Mahony, Ryan has not played since Ireland’s defeat to Italy for which he was considered doubtful because of a shoulder/back injury that had been affecting him during the Championship.

Nevertheless, he gets the nod over Donncha O’Callaghan to partner Paul O’Connell in the province’s second row, with O’Connell captaining the side in Howlett’s absence.

Cathal Sheridan and Ivan Dineen, who are listed among the replacements, are both hoping to get their first taste of Heineken Cup fare.

Meanwhile, there are four changes to the Harlequins team that faced Gloucester in the Aviva Premiership last time out. Among the backs, Tom Williams and Ugo Monye return to start on the wings, with Mike Brown continuing at full-back.

George Lowe will make his 100th senior appearance for the club and partners Tom Casson in the centre.

In the forwards, the front five remain unchanged, while Maurie Fa’asavalu and captain Chris Robshaw return to the flanks. Tom Guest has recovered from illness and is named among the replacements.

This fixture will be the biggest that the Twickenham Stoop has ever held with a capacity crowd of 15,000 present. Gates open at 12pm.

HARLEQUINS: Mike Brown; Tom Williams, George Lowe, Tom Casson, Ugo Monye; Nick Evans, Danny Care; Joe Marler, Rob Buchanan, James Johnston, Olly Kohn, George Robson, Maurie Fa’asavalu, Chris Robshaw (capt), Nick Easter.

Replacements: Joe Gray, Mark Lambert, Will Collier, Charlie Matthews, Tom Guest, Karl Dickson, Ben Botica, Matt Hopper.

MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Denis Hurley, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Simon Zebo; Ronan O’Gara, Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry, BJ Botha, Donnacha Ryan, Paul O’Connell (capt), Peter O’Mahony, Tommy O’Donnell, James Coughlan.

Replacements: Damien Varley, Wian du Preez, Stephen Archer, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paddy Butler, Cathal Sheridan, Ian Keatley, Ivan Dineen.

Referee: Jerome Garces (France)
Assistant Referees: Marius Mitrea (Italy), Laurent Cardona (France)
Television Match Official: Iain Ramage (Scotland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Harlequins to win: 4/11; Draw: 22/1; Munster to win: 9/4

Pre-Match Quotes: Conor Murray (Munster) – “That (the 2011 Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final defeat to Harlequins) was a hard day. It was my first European involvement after we beat Brive in the quarter-final over there.

“It was my first European home game with Munster and it was an unbelievable day, a sunny, dry day, a packed house, and just an unbelievably sad day.

“It was just a hard one to take because there was such a buzz around the city at the time and everyone was nearly expecting us to win, and we didn’t. It was just a shock to the system.

“We’re not unaware of people writing us off and we’ve probably had that underdog tag that you link with Munster down through the years.

“So that’s definitely going to be an extra motivational tool this week and it’s probably been talked about during training and at meetings before training, that there’s people writing us off.

“There’s a lot of confidence in the squad, in terms of us playing quite well during the year at times. We haven’t been consistent but we have shown we have the ability to play quite well so we’re going to try to draw that out.

“This is a huge game. It could be a great day so you’ve got to gee yourself up and get energised about it in training, and try to gee up some of the lads who might be feeling the defeat still, get them excited about what could potentially happen at the weekend.”

Conor O’Shea (Harlequins) – “Munster are a good side and this is cup rugby now. There is no other chance. That fear brings out different things in people. Hopefully we can control that fear and put in our ambition.

“We want to play – that is the way this team is built. This is a quarter-final against a team who have got there 14 times. This is what it’s all about.

“We said coming out of the pool we don’t care who we play against. It is tough to play Munster at any time but we just want to get out there.

“We just didn’t perform against Saracens at all. We were outstanding when we won the LV= Cup, which is a major trophy to have in the bag, and I thought we were magnificent in so many ways against Gloucester last week.

“We lost 17-15 but I said immediately afterwards that we played some brilliant rugby. We want to leave every single piece of us on the pitch from now until the end of the season.

“If we do that and we play with the ambition that this team can play with, we will be more than competitive.”

Current Form – Harlequins – (Aviva Premiership): Won 42-40 away to London Wasps; Won 40-3 at home to London Welsh; Won 37-14 at home to Sale Sharks; Won 22-9 away to Leicester Tigers; Lost 18-16 at home to Saracens; Lost 42-28 away to Exeter Chiefs; (Heineken Cup): Won 40-13 at home to Biarritz Olympique; Won 30-22 away to Connacht; (Aviva Premiership): Won 31-28 away to London Irish; Won 28-25 at home to Gloucester; (LV= Cup): Won 31-30 away to Northampton Saints; Won 21-12 at home to Bath; (Aviva Premiership): Lost 21-18 away to Bath; Won 22-19 at home to Worcester Warriors; (Heineken Cup): Won 57-14 away to Zebre; Won 53-5 at home to Zebre; (Aviva Premiership): Won 18-9 away to Northampton Saints; Won 26-15 at home to London Irish; Won 31-26 away to London Welsh; (Heineken Cup): Won 47-8 at home to Connacht; Won 16-9 away to Biarritz Olympique; (LV= Cup): Won 23-6 at home to London Welsh; Won 16-12 away to the Ospreys; (Aviva Premiership): Lost 17-16 at home to London Wasps; Won 25-21 at home to Leicester Tigers; Won 30-21 away to Sale Sharks; Lost 27-16 at home to Exeter Chiefs; (LV= Cup semi-final): Won 31-23 at home to Bath; (LV= Cup final): Won 32-14 at home to Sale Sharks; (Aviva Premiership): Lost 27-12 away to Saracens; Lost 17-15 away to Gloucester

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; Won 29-6 at home to Racing Metro 92; (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 30-3 at home to Edinburgh; Lost 18-10 away to the Scarlets; Lost 34-10 away to Benetton Treviso; Drew 13-13 at home to the Ospreys; Won 22-0 at home to Connacht; Lost 51-24 away to Glasgow Warriors

Top Scorers – 2012/13 Heineken Cup: Harlequins – Points: Nick Evans 61; Tries: Danny Care 4; Munster – Points: Ronan O’Gara 44; Tries: Simon Zebo 4

Previous European Meetings: 7

Saturday, April 30, 2011 – Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final – Munster 12 Harlequins 20, Thomond Park
Saturday, January 15, 2005 – Pool 4 – Harlequins 10 Munster 18, Twickenham
Saturday, October 23, 2004 – Pool 4 – Munster 15 Harlequins 9, Thomond Park
Saturday, January 5, 2002 – Pool 4 – Munster 51 Harlequins 17, Thomond Park
Saturday, October 6, 2001 – Pool 4 – Harlequins 8 Munster 24, Twickenham Stoop
Sunday, October 12, 1997 – Pool D – Munster 23 Harlequins 16, Thomond Park
Sunday, September 7, 1997 – Pool D – Harlequins 48 Munster 40, Twickenham Stoop

Match Facts And Figures –

– Harlequins are the top points scorers in the Heineken Cup this season, averaging 41 per game in the pool stages and scoring 28 tries in total

– Harlequins enjoyed the biggest share of possession of all teams in the pool stages, spending an average of 17 minutes and 55 seconds per game with the ball, more than any other side

– Munster back rower Peter O’Mahony has made 70 carries so far – only two other players have made more

– Since the 1998/99 season, Munster have failed to reach the quarter-finals of the tournament just once (2010/11). They have won nine of those 13 quarter-finals

– Munster have won two thirds of their matches against English opposition in the tournament. They have suffered just 13 losses in 38 clashes with English clubs

Heineken Cup Records:

Harlequins –
2011/12: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2009/10: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2008/09: Reached the quarter-finals
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2004/05: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2001/02: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
1997/98: Reached the quarter-finals
1996/97: Reached the quarter-finals

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