How the sides com­pare

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MUN­STER

Team News

Just one change for Mun­ster from Sun­day’s 30-5 Thomond Park vic­tory over Cas­tres as Jo­hann van Graan se­lects a fita­gain Joey Car­bery to start at fly-half. Car­bery, signed from Le­in­ster dur­ing the sum­mer, has a tough act to fol­low given he is re­plac­ing last week’s try-scor­ing man-of-the-match JJ Han­ra­han, who has to set­tle for a place among the re­place­ments. Mun­ster and Ire­land sup­port­ers will have the chance to see the 23-year-old Car­bery part­ner scrum-half Conor Murray in a pro­vin­cial half-back com­bi­na­tion for the very first time this evening. This will be Murray’s fourth ap­pear­ance of the sea­son, hav­ing made his come­back from a neck in­jury last month against Ze­bre. It will be the Ire­land star’s 120th Mun­ster ap­pear­ance since his 2009 de­but. The rest of the team is un­changed, with Sammy Arnold again deputis­ing for the in­jured Chris Far­rell at out­side cen­tre, while tight­head prop Stephen Archer re­turns to re­place Ciaran Parker as the back-up for starter John Ryan, hav­ing re­cov­ered from an ill­ness.

Com­ing to the boil

Van Graan has named a side as close to full strength as he dared imag­ine for a piv­otal match in the Heineken Cham­pi­ons Cup pool cam­paign - only in­jured duo Chris Far­rell and Jean Kleyn likely to have been au­to­matic starters in mid­field and at lock re­spec­tively. Yet this is a Mun­ster squad on a roll right now, un­beaten since their Oc­to­ber 6 league loss at Le­in­ster and on top of Pool 2 head­ing into Round Four with a three­p­oint lead over Glouces­ter.

CAS­TRES

Team News

Cas­tres make seven changes to the side which went down to Mun­ster in Lim­er­ick six days ago, in­clud­ing an all-new front row. Af­ter be­ing dom­i­nated at scrum time in round three, the French cham­pi­ons have pro­moted their re­place­ment trio to start­ing roles. The pack is fur­ther al­tered in the back row, with cap­tain Mathieu Ba­bil­lot the only sur­vivor of the Thomond Park de­feat, al­beit switch­ing flanks to the open­side as Kevin Gi­meno drops to the bench from where Yan­nick Ca­ballero is el­e­vated to a start­ing berth at blind­side. It is all change at No.8 where Maama Vaip­ilu comes in as Alex Tu­lou is omit­ted from the match­day squad. There is also a key switch at scrum-half, where last week’s start­ing nine Ludo Ra­dosavl­je­vic is re­placed by Sun­day’s bench­warmer Rory Kockott. Lim­er­ick tryscorer Martin Laveau comes off the bench to start at home, swap­ping places with Armand Batlle. The danger­ous South African cen­tre Robert Eber­sohn is also among the re­place­ments.

French fortress?

For all the hype about Stade Pierre Fabre be­ing a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment, Cas­tres Olympique have un­der­per­formed there. They’ve lost their last Top14 game at home, a 16-13 de­feat to rel­e­ga­tion con­tenders Agen a fort­night ago. Christope Urios’s side are with­out a win in their last six home ties against Ir­ish op­po­nents, though the num­ber­crunch­ers will note that each of those games, not least the draws with Le­in­ster and Mun­ster, were tight af­fairs in which the home side picked up match points.

Words: Si­mon Lewis

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