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Centre partnership crucial as Munster seek European Cup victory

By Aidan Corr
ALL the internationals are back for Munster as they prepare for tomorrow’s Champions Cup pool game against Leicester Tigers in Thomond Park, 7.45.
The centre partnership is going to be crucial but Sam Arold has been showing good form for his club Garryowen and against the Ospreys last time out while Rory Scannell is now well recognised as a centre of international quality.
With Andrew Conway in the best form of his career on the right wing, Simon Zebo’s attacking flair from the full-back position and the pace of another Garryowen man, Alex Wooton sure to scorch the turf on the left flank, Munster will not be lacking in attacking power. Add in a bang-in-form Ian Keatley at out-half and despite a number of injuries, this is a selection that is well capable of doing the business.
Conor Murray’s return is crucial for a game of this importance while the front-row of Dave Kilcoyne, Rhys Marshall and Stepen Archer should give their side the advantage, at least in the crucial opening quarter when the strength of both packs will be fully tested.
Marshall in particular is on fire at the moment and looks like being another of the ‘Ireland qualified’ if he hangs around for a couple of seasons. Jean Kleyn is also having a good campaign and, thankfully, has avoided any further injuries in recent months while in the back-row the return of Peter O’Mahoney and CJ Stander and the inclusion of tear-away open-side Chris Cloete will take some stopping by the Tigers.
Billy Holland is also having one of his best seasons of his career and it is only a matter of time before Joe Schmidt acknowledges his efforts with more international call-ups.
Leicester will want to put up a better show than they did on their visit to Limerick last season when they failed to put a score on the board and suffered a significant defeat. They will be hoping to get some joy from their midfield of the two Matts (Smith and Tait) while Jonny May on the left wing is always a threat. Conor Murray completely out-played Ben Youngs in that Thomond Park defeat while George Ford will carry a lot of responsibility if he is to dictate matters from ten. It’s going to a rare battle in the front row. England internationals Tom Youngs and Dan Cole have high reputations but lighting-up time at the Mayorstone venue provide special cup nights and on the back of this frenzy of support, Munster will be fancied to win . . . . even with a bonus point. Wouldn’t that be nice to bring with them to Welford Road next week-end!
Referee: Jérome Garcès (France), Assistant ref: Ludovic Cayre (France), Assistant ref: Hervé Labaylette (France), TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France), Citing Commissioner: John Montgomery (Scotland)
Munster Rugby: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Sam Arnold, Rory Scannell, Alex Wootton; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland, Peter O’Mahony (c), Chris Cloete, CJ Stander
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Brian Scott, John Ryan, Darren O’Shea, Jack O’Donoghue, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Darren Sweetnam
Leicester Tigers: Telusa Veainu; Adam Thompstone, Matt Smith, Matthew Tait, Jonny May; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Kyle Traynor, Tom Youngs (c), Dan Cole, Michael Fitzgerald, Graham Kitchener, Tino Mapapalangi, Luke Hamilton, Sione Kalafamoni
Replacements: Harry Thacker, Logovii Mulipola, Chris Baumann, Dom Barrow, Mike Williams, Sam Harrison, Joe Ford, Nick Malouf

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