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Dublin: 3 °C Thursday 23 November, 2017
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Munster must be squeaky clean as Storm Brian and Dan Carter descend on Limerick

Ronan O’Gara’s Racing 92 look well equipped to make it an uncomfortable evening for Munster.

Updated at 15.16

ON THE WEATHER front it’s a status yellow warning for Limerick, but even with clear blue skies, from a rugby perspective there ought to be a red alert (kick-off 17.30, Sky Sports).

Racing 92 coaches Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers fell foul of Munster last season while struggling to back up their Top 14 title-winning year. But they are back swimming in Munster’s pool again and, on top of having an assistant with more inside knowledge than any, they have all the tools sharpened to make this a very uncomfortable weekend for Munster.

Robin Copeland Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

After Racing edged past Leicester, last weekend’s draw in Castres was a curate’s egg of a result for Munster which was easily viewed in the negative. In order to put a proper positive prism over the two points won, nothing less than home victories from here on in will do. And today’s will be the toughest task Rassie Erasmus and Johann van Graan face between them at Thomond Park.

Billy Holland sounded the warning loud and clear in France on Sunday: “They have two world-class XVs, they could swap out the entire team that played last weekend and they would still have a team of household names.”

Yet it’s only when noon pre-matchday arrives and the fresh team-sheet comes through that the Parisians’ quality can be laid out. Out go quality internationals like Dimitri Szarzewski, Juan Imhoff and Remi Tales. In come Camille Chat, Pat Lambie and – the great – Dan Carter.

Dan Carter Source: James Crombie/INPHO

On a day when the heavens are unlikely to be caught shut, it will be intriguing to see Carter in action in the famous old venue. He missed out on the round six trip last season with Racing out of contention, though the Thomond fateful does have some history with Joe Rokocoko, whose late try denied Munster a second famous win over the All Blacks in 2008.

Carter’s expert decision-making and combination with the experienced and assured Maxime Machenaud means that Racing’s ability to throw the pill around both inside and outside the pack shouldn’t equate to a Munster advantage in wet conditions. With Springbok out-half Lambie positioned at fullback, the visitors have clearly signalled their intent to pin their hosts back whenever possible.

Leone Nakarawa is tackled by George Ford Leone Nakarawa's handling makes him a force of nature all by himself. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It would have been a tough enough task with all hands on deck, but losing Tyler Bleyendaal and particularly Niall Scannell to injury complicates the task.

That Ian Keatley sparkled off the bench in Castres is cause for optimism, as is the prospect of JJ Hanrahan making an impact from the bench in any of three positions. However, the biggest reason to believe Munster will make home advantage count this weekend is the return of Jean Kleyn. Last weekend’s set-piece stats were solid, but the addition of a lock of Kleyn’s strength and heft is priceless in conditions that will favour those willing to dig deep into the trenches.

Jean Kleyn Kleyn the key: Extra power at lock will be essential in tough conditions. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Leone Nakarawa sparkled last weekend with some of his trademark offloads and jaw-dropping playmaking ability from second row, but Racing are certainly well able to complement his abilities and lay a platform for all that slick Test-grade talent.

Discipline and handling were a big issue for Munster on the road in Castres last weekend. Against a bigger, richer, smarter, meaner French side, they must be squeaky clean in conditions that will be anything but.

Munster:

15. Simon Zebo
14. Darren Sweetnam
13. Chris Farrell
12. Rory Scannell
11. Keith Earls
10. Ian Keatley
9. Conor Murray

1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Rhys Marshall
3. Stephen Archer
4. Jean Kleyn
5. Billy Holland
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Tommy O’Donnell
8. CJ Stander

Replacements

16. Kevin O’Byrne
17. Liam O’Connor
18. John Ryan
19. Mark Flanagan
20. Jack O’Donoghue
21. Duncan Williams
22. JJ Hanrahan
23. Andrew Conway

Racing 92

15. Pat Lambie
14. Joe Rokocoko
13. Henry Chavancy
12. Anthony Tuitavke
11. Louis Dupichot
10. Dan Carter
9. Maxime Machenaud

1. Eddy Ben Arous
2. Camille Chat
3. Ben Tameifuna
4. Bernard Le Roux
5. Leone Nakarawa
6. Wenceslas Lauret
7. Yannick Nyanga
8. Antonie Claassen

Replacements:

16. Dimitri Szarzewski,
17. Viliamu Afatia
18. Census Johnston
19. Baptiste Chouzenoux
20. Edwin Maka
21. Teddy Iribaren
22. Remi Tales
23. Albert Vulivuli


Source: The42 Podcasts/SoundCloud

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