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Dublin: 5 °C Monday 14 October, 2019
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Munster strong favourites to earn home QF in front of another sold out Thomond

Rassie Erasmus’ men are expected to win convincingly in Limerick today.

MUNSTER ARE DETERMINED to ensure that this evening’s clash against Racing 92 is another celebration at Thomond Park [KO 5.30pm, Sky Sports 2], but more importantly they are focused on securing the victory that will bring a home quarter-final.

The last time the Limerick venue was graced with a knockout tie in this competition was 2014, also the last time Munster were involved in a quarter-final.

Toulouse came to town that day and were handsomely dispatched by Rob Penney’s side, who scored six tries in a 47-23 win.

A view of Munster fans before the game 26/12//2016 Thomond Park will be full this evening. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The atmosphere was exceptional on that occasion, and the past two seasons had been difficult for Munster partly for the very fact that such an atmosphere wasn’t really created again.

However, Thomond Park has seen a return almost to its heyday during the current campaign, certainly in terms of the numbers that are flocking to the stadium. It may not be a quarter-final today, but tickets sold out early this week.

With the capacity again stretched to 26,200, Munster will not be lacking for support as they go about their mission to clinch the all-important home draw in the quarter-finals.

After Leinster managed only to draw in Castres last night, a bonus-point win for Munster could even see them emerge from the pool stages as top seeds, although Clermont are likely to have something to say about that today against Exeter.

First things first, Rassie Erasmus’ Munster must clear the final hurdle in Pool 1.

Racing 92 are dead and buried in this competition, but they have brought several fine players with them to Limerick, after naming France internationals Brice Dulin, Maxime Machenaud, Teddy Thomas, Camille Chat, Eddy Ben Arous and Yannick Nyanga to start.

Big Ben Tameifuna can be a handful in the front row, while the strengths of lock Leone Nakarawa are well known. Racing were embarrassed at home to Munster earlier this month, of course, and assistant coach Ronan O’Gara will have done his best to evoke an emotional response for this weekend.

O’Gara’s return may not see the contest he deserves, and it would pain him to watch Munster win convincingly again – even taking his love for the province into account. An ambitious young coach, he was clearly distraught by the heavy defeat in Paris.

Duncan Williams Munster replacement scrum-half at training this week. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Munster themselves have largely gone for continuity in their XV, although Tommy O’Donnell is back from injury to provide experience at openside, Ronan O’Mahony replaces the injured Keith Earls on the wing, and James Cronin swaps in for Dave Kilcoyne at loosehead.

All in all, Munster should have enough to justify their 25-point favouritism and a bonus point should arrive in the closing quarter, presuming Erasmus’ side don’t give Racing cheap footholds in the game.

Another ruthless performance in front of a full Thomond Park and Munster can look forward to the latter stages of this competition with some confidence.

Munster:

15. Simon Zebo
14. Andrew Conway
13. Jaco Taute
12. Rory Scannell
11. Ronan O’Mahony
10. Tyler Bleyendaal
9. Conor Murray

1. James Cronin
2. Niall Scannell
3. John Ryan
4. Jean Kleyn
5. Donnacha Ryan
6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
7. Tommy O’Donnell
8. CJ Stander

Replacements:

16. Rhys Marshall
17. Dave Kilcoyne
18. Thomas du Toit
19. Billy Holland
20. Jack O’Donoghue
21. Duncan Williams
22. Ian Keatley
23. Francis Saili

Racing 92:

15. Brice Dulin
14. Teddy Thomas
13. Henry Chavancy
12. Etienne Dussartre
11. Marc Andreu
10. Benjamin Dambielle
9. Maxime Machenaud (captain)

1. Eddy Ben Arous
2. Camille Chat
3. Ben Tameifuna
4. Manuel Carizza
5. Leone Nakarawa
6. Yannick Nyanga
7. Matthieu Voisin
8. So’otala Fa’aso’o

Replacements:

16. Virgile Lacombe
17. Julien Brugnaut
18. Cedate Gomes Sa
19. Ali Williams
20. Chris Masoe
21. James Hart
22. Franck Pourteau
23. Albert Vulivuli

Referee: Marius Mitrea [FIR].

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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