Multiple team changes by Premiership relegation-threatened Saracens have handed Munster a huge incentive for Saturday’s Champions Cup fixture at Thomond Park.
Fresh from last weekend’s win at Bath in the Gallagher Premiership, the under-fire Londoners have decided to ring the changes for their round three European clash in Ireland.
Fined £5.4million and deducted 35 league points, Saracens had suggested last month that preserving their Premiership status would be their priority this season, not retaining the Heineken Cup they lifted last May with victory over Leinster in the final in Newcastle.
Hammered in round one after sending an understrength XV to Racing 92, Saracens bounced back in round two with a thumping home win over Ospreys with a team that featured many of their England World Cup final players.
All those stars were then on deck for the subsequent league win at Bath, but coach Mark McCall has now juggled his line-up and given the weekend off to the likes of Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Billy Vunipola.
(Continue reading below…)
That decision has left much resting on the shoulders of Maro Itoje as they head to Limerick looking to secure what would be a priceless away victory in a pool headed by Racing and Munster who are locked together on seven points, two ahead of Saracens.
Skipper Brad Barritt is included for his 250th appearance for the club but only he and winger Alex Lewington remain from the backline that started at the Rec. In the pack, the repeat picks are tighthead Titi Lamositele, locks Will Skelton and Itjoe and back row Jackson Wray.
They will face a Munster XV featuring long-serving Ireland internationals such as Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander.
MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland; Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony (capt), CJ Stander. Reps: Kevin O’Byrne, Liam O’Connor, John Ryan, Fineen Wycherley, Jack O’Donoghue, Nick McCarthy, Sammy Arnold, Arno Botha.
SARACENS: Matt Gallagher; Rotimi Segun, Alex Lozowski, Brad Barritt (capt), Alex Lewington; Manu Vunipola, Ben Spencer; Richard Barrington, Jack Singleton, Titi Lamositele, Will Skelton, Maro Itoje, Nick Isiekwe, Ben Earl, Jackson Wray. Reps: Kapeli Pifeleti, Rhys Carre, Josh Ibuanokpe, Joel Kpoku, Sean Reffell, Tom Whiteley, Max Malins, Nick Tompkins.
WATCH: The Rugby Pod reacts to Saracens not appealing their Premiership Rugby salary cap penalty
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now