Carter to return for Munster clash as Reds prepare for reunion with Ryan
Out-half has not played since injuring knee at Thomond, writes Ruaidhri O’Connor
Dan Carter looks set to be recalled to the Racing 92 team for Sunday's crunch Champions Cup Pool 4 clash against Munster.
The All Black legend has not played since limping through the corresponding fixture at Thomond Park in October, spending time in Dublin's Santry Sports Surgery Clinic to rehabilitate his damaged knee, and it looks like he'll be pitched back in for the pivotal fixture.
Racing trail Munster by four points in the hunt for a quarter-final spot but victory at their brand-spanking-new U Arena home would blow the pool wide open going into the final games.
Munster are in a commanding position but the job is far from done for Johann van Graan's men, who will hope for at least a losing bonus point from their trip to Paris.
The addition of Carter (pictured opposite), who has never played at the new arena, is a big boost to the Parisians who are in a rich vein of form having hammered an under-strength Clermont last week.
But his won't be the most significant name on the team-sheet for Reds fans who will get to see a former stalwart of their own, Donnacha Ryan, in the sky blue and white stripes.
A fixture in the Munster team and an Ireland regular when fit for the past number of years, the second-row will feel he has plenty to prove to an Irish audience on Sunday having been left out of the national team's set-up after moving to Paris.
He has an intimate knowledge of the Reds' set-plays and will be obliged to share that knowledge with his current team-mates.
Peter O'Mahony says there are no plans to change the calling structure despite his former team-mate's inside knowledge.
"'Donners' knows what we do but we haven't changed anything," he said. "It's still split-second stuff, so even if I was given a (opposition) line-out call it would be very hard to react as quick as someone who knows what they're doing. You just have to be good at it."
A lineout expert in his own right, Van Graan this week labelled Racing's defensive set-piece second only to the All Blacks.
It is high praise and they certainly put pressure on Rhys Marshall in October.
Throw in the expertise Ryan can bring and lock Jean Kleyn is expecting a tough battle.
"It's going to be interesting," he told Sky Sports.
"Donnacha's obviously a very tough player and he's good in the lineout so he'll bring a real element to their set-piece.
"As everyone knows, he's a hard man on the pitch so it will be interesting but I'm looking forward to it.
"You do get a good taste for your team-mates during training, so I know what he's about and it'll be good facing him. He'll be just as excited as we are.
"I think it's going to be a very tough match, obviously it's over at their new home the U Arena and it's the first European Cup match there, so they'll be raring to go with their mindset on opening up the stadium with a win.
"We'll meet them (Racing) with full force and hopefully we get a good result."
O'Mahony observed that Racing's power across the board has lessened the work-load on Ryan who can concentrate on the technical side of the game as he partners the off-loading king Leone Nakarawa.
And Ian Keatley, who will face off against Carter, believes the Tipperary man will have an influence.
"He will bring a little bit of insider knowledge into us, but I think what we've talked about is just making sure we focus on our own game," he said.
"We cannot be worrying about Donnacha. I'm sure he will preview us pretty well, but once it comes to game time I don't think he will be worrying about us either.
"It is going to be great to see Donnacha, but if we start really looking at Donnacha or any one of their other players where they've got strength in depth everywhere and have world-class talent everywhere, if we start to focus on that too much we are going to be walking down the wrong path.
"So our focus mainly this week is about concentrating on us and making sure we perform physically, tactically and even our discipline is going to be massive over there.
"You want to play in the best stadiums against the best players in the world and you want to beat them."