Racing Metro v Munster: Preview, team news & live score commentary Kick off 1:35pm
Racing Métro v Munster
Stade de France, 1 35pm
By Aisling Crowe
It’s another clash of the old guard and the new boys in Munster’s first game of the Heineken Cup campaign. Munster are stalwarts of the competition but Racing are relative novices compared to the Irish side.
The French team only made their debut in this competition last year and promptly lost all three of their home games. That probably won’t have any bearing on the outcome of this game as the pulling power of Munster means the match has been moved to the Stade de France.
Munster were outplayed by Leinster for the opening hour of their Rabodirect PRO12 game last Saturday but coach Rob Penney will have taken heart from the way his team came back in the final quarter and dominated the match.
Penney takes charge of his first Heineken Cup game and although he is overseeing a team in transition a glance at the team sheet reveals that this Munster side has a huge advantage over Racing in terms of European experience. O’Gara, O’Connell and Howlett are names to conjure with in Europe and the bench isn’t lacking in household names.
Racing come into the game on the back of two straight morale sapping defeats in the Top 14, firstly away to Grenoble and last weekend at home to Montpellier. They are also suffering from an injury crisis with 12 players unavailable today.
Key player: For Munster is has to be Ronan O’Gara. The outhalf may be 35 but his experience is invaluable and know better than anyone how to dictate a game.
Up front is where most of Racing’s experience is found and Italian prop Andrea Lo Cicero along with the French duo of Dimitri Szarzewski and Luc Ducalcon could make life very difficult for Munster.
Team News: Outhalf is proving to be a huge problem for Racing. Mathieu Belie is out because of injury while Juan Martin Hernandez only returned from international duty on Thursday which means Ollie Barkley, signed on an emergency deal from Bath, starts today.
The psychological boost to his team mates of seeing O’Connell line out in the red of Munster is incalculable but the team are shorn of the injured Keith Earls, out for three weeks with a thigh strain, and Wian du Preez who picked up an knee injury against Leinster. Billy Holland replaces the injured Donncha O’Callaghan and the only unforced change is at full back where Ian Keatley comes in for Denis Hurley.
Verdict: No matter who the opposition are, France has not been the happiest of hunting grounds for Irish teams over the years. However guided by the imperious and astute O’Gara and with O’Connell restored to the side Munster could enjoy a successful weekend in Paris.
Racing Metro 92: Benjamin Fall; Julien Jane, Mirco Bergamasco, Fabrice Estebanez, Julien Saubade; Olly Barkley, Maxime Machenaud; Andrea Lo Cicero, Dimitri Szarzewski, Luc Ducalcon, Karim Ghezal, Francois Carl Van der Merwe, Antoine Battut, Jacques Cronje (capt), Sakiusa Matadigo.
Replacements: Thomas Bianchin, Eddy Ben Arous, Fabrice Metz, Bernard Le Roux, Camille Gerondeau, Sebastien Descons, Virimi Vakatawa, Benjamin Salemane Sa
Munster: Ian Keatley; Doug Howlett (capt), Casey Laulala, James Downey, Simon Zebo; Ronan O’Gara, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, BJ Botha; Billy Holland, Paul O’Connell; Donncha Ryan, Sean Dougall, Peter O’Mahony.
Replacements: Mick Sherry, Marcus Horan, Stephen Archer, Dave O’Callaghan, Paddy Butler, Peter Stringer, Danny Barnes, Denis Hurley.