Munster v Leicester Tigers preview: Team news, kick-off time, line-ups, odds and stats for the Champions Cup clash
Munster have made wholesale changes from their 22-6 Pro12 defeat by Newport Gwent Dragons for Saturday’s crucial European Champions Cup game against Leicester.
Anthony Foley makes nine changes in total with Ireland’s Keith Earls, Conor Murray and Donnacha Ryan among those to return.. CJ Stander, Robin Copeland and Simon Zebo are also included in the proposed matchday squad..
Leicester, aiming to make it three wins from three in Europe, also ring the changes. Richard Cockerill makes seven alterations from his side’s hard-fought 29-20 Premiership victory at Worcester.
England scrum-half Ben Youngs and his brother Tom are two headline names to return. Youngs replaces Sam Harrison at number nine shirt, while Tigers have an entirely fresh back row from last weekend, with captain Ed Slater moving from lock and Brendon O’Connor and Lachlan McCaffrey both coming in.
Slater’s switch to flanker covers for Mike Williams, who looks set to miss the next three months of action wit ha broken arm.
Mike Fitzgerald is drafted into second row to replace Slater with O’Connor and McCaffrey taking over from Tom Croft and Jordan Crane.
Front-row changes see Marcos Ayerza and Youngs come in for Matias Aguero and Greg Bateman, while a second backs change sees Matt Smith come in for Peter Betham at centre.
Leicester are currently top Pool Four after sucessive wins over Stade Francais and Treviso.
Munster’s only European game so far brought up a solid home win over the Italian side, but their second fixture, planned to come against Stade, was postponed following recent tragic events in Paris.
Copeland, the flanker, will be making his first Champions Cup start, while Murray partners Ian Keatley at half-back after being out of action recently due to a foot injury.
James Cronin and BJ Botha come in for Dave Kilcoyne and John Ryan respectively in the front row, with Ryan partnering Dave Foley at lock.
Munster have one of the best records on home soil in the Champions Cup, having won 62 of their 66 home matches in the competition.
The Irish province are in the midst of a mini-slump having lost two consecutive PRO12 fixtures for the first time since May 2014.
Thes two sides have faced each other on four previous occasions in Europe and neither side has won at their home ground.
Leicester have won their last four matches in all competitions.
BETTING ODDS (via SKY BET)
Munster 4/7, Draw 28/1, Leicester 6/4
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Munster: Simon Zebo
Leicester Tigers: Telusa Veainu
Munster: 15 Andrew Conway, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Denis Hurley, 11 Simon Zebo; 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander (c), 7 Dave O’Callaghan, 6 Robin Copeland, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Dave Foley, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 John Ryan, 19 Mark Chisholm, 20 Jack O’Donoghue, 21 Tomás O’Leary, 22 Tyler Bleyendaal, 23 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Seremaia Bai’, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Ed Slater (c), 5 Mike Fitzgerald, 4 Graham Kitchener, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Dom Barrow, 20 Tom Croft, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Tommy Bell, 23 Gonzalo Camacho.
Date: Saturday, December 12
Venue: Thomond Park
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: Tual Trainini (France), Laurent Breil (France)
TMO: Gilles Cogne (France)