Stade selection gives Munster chance
Published 09/01/2016 | 02:30
French sides don't often come bearing gifts in Europe, so Munster should be wary of getting too excited by the names missing from the Stade Francais team-sheet for this evening's re-fixed clash in Paris.
There is quality in the side selected by Gonzalo Quesada, but already without the injured Will Genia, Willelm Alberts, Raphael Lakafia and the ill Pascal Papé, the former Argentina player has chosen to leave some big hitters on his bench.
Some will interpret this as the Top 14 side focusing on domestic matters, but perhaps they are banking on being able to beat the Irish side at home before unloading fully at Thomond Park before securing a quarter-final berth against Leicester in two weeks' time.
In contrast, Munster know there is no tomorrow if they don't get a result in Paris and Anthony Foley has been able to restore some quality operators to his side after ending their losing streak in Belfast last weekend.
The back-three of Andrew Conway, Keith Earls and Simon Zebo come back in along with Conor Murray, while Dave Foley returns to the second-row and Robin Copeland gets the nod over Jack O'Donoghue.
Rory Scannell has overcome his dead leg to continue his burgeoning partnership with Francis Saili in the centre, while Ian Keatley will hope to build on his return to form last weekend.
Foley was happy to get the win at Kingspan Stadium and put their losing run to an end, but wants to see improvements.
"Everybody had a weight around their shoulders going through a period like that, and I think going up and doing something that not many Munster teams have done in winning in Ravenhill, you can come away happy about it," he said.
"But, when you look at the game in the cold light of day, we still need to rectify a few issues and we're doing our best to get that done. Hopefully, we can see that at the weekend.
"We still have quality players in our side and it's about building that confidence back up."
The key for Munster will be holding on to possession for long periods and moving the Top 14 champions around the park.
Their discipline must be strong, given that Morné Steyn, who is preferred to the more creative Jules Plisson, can kick goals from range, and their set-piece must remain strong.
The decision to go with Copeland and restore Foley adds a physical edge, and the ability to dominate the breakdown will be key. If Murray and Keatley can get quick ball, then there is plenty of attacking talent outside them to utilise.
Munster's main problems in recent times have come from their missed tackle count and their inability to score when presented with good opportunities. They improved their defence massively last weekend and if their attack can show composure and take chances when they're presented they can get their campaign back on track.
STADE FRANCAIS - H Bonneval; J Arias, W Vuidarvuwalu, P Williams, J Raisuque; M Steyn, J Dupuy; Z Taulafo, L Sempéré, P Alo Emile; H Pyle, P Gabrillagues; S Macalou, S Nicolas, S Parisse (capt). Reps: L Panis, H van der Merwe, R Slimani, G Mostert, J Ross, J Tomas, J Plisson, J Danty.
MUNSTER - A Conway; K Earls, F Saili, R Scannell, S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, BJ Botha; D Foley, M Chisholm; R Copeland, T O'Donnell, CJ Stander. Reps: N Scannell, J Ryan, M Sagario, B Holland, J O'Donoghue, T O'Leary, D Hurley, R O'Mahony.
Ref - N Owens (Wales)
Stade Francais v Munster, Live, Sky Sports, 4.45