Munster announce team for trip to Champions Cup opener

On Friday, Munster unveiled their team to take on Castres Olympique in the first round of the Champions Cup on Sunday, with Rassie Erasmus naming five changes from the team that lost out to Leinster last weekend.

Second row Mark Flanagan, who is on-loan from Saracens, will make his Munster debut at the Stade Pierre Antoine when he partners Billy Holland in the engine room, replacing Robin Copeland.

In the front row, Stephen Archer is called upon to steady the scrum where he joins Dave Kilcoyne and Niall Scannell while the backrow unit remains unchanged with O’Mahony skippering the side from his usual blindside flanker berth.

In the backline, Tyler Bleyendaal is reinstated at out-half where he will play alongside Conor Murray. Ian Keatley has been dropped to the bench with Rory Scannell returning to the midfield to partner Champions Cup debutant Chris Farrell.

Castres will be wary of Simon Zebo’s threat in attack, as the 27-year old completes the changes at full-back with Keith Earls and Darren Sweetnam flanking him.

The hosts will look to lay down a marker up front with seasoned vets such as Uruguayan skipper Rodrigo Capo Ortega, Jody Jenneker and Tonga back-row Steve Mafi in their pack.

In the backline, France scrum-half Rory Kockott will orchestrate the game alongside Benjamin Urdapilleta. In the back-three, David Smith and Canada international Taylor Paris are world class counter-attackers.

The French outfit get their Champions Cup campaign underway following a poor run of form in the early stages of the Top 14, where they have only managed two wins from seven games.

Munster Rugby

Munster Rugby

Conversely,Munster have been steadily gathering momentum this season and will look to build on last year’s semi-final honours when they get their Champions Cup campaign underway on Sunday at 1pm (Irish time).

Although the sides haven’t met since the 2011/12 season, this will be the 13th time these sides meet in Europe and in turn it becomes the most played fixture in the competition’s history.

Munster: Simon Zebo; Darren Sweetnam, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Mark Flanagan, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (c), Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Liam O’Connor, John Ryan, Robin Copeland, Jack O’Donoghue, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, Andrew Conway.

Castres Olympique: Julien Dumora; Taylor Paris, Afusipa Taumoepeau, Robert Ebersohn, David Smith; Benjamin Urdapilleta, Rory Kockott; Antoine Tichit, Jody Jenneker, Daniel Kotze, Loic Jacquet, Rodrigo Capo Ortega; Yannick Caballero, Steve Mafi, Maama Vaipulu

Replacements: Marc-Antoine Rallier, Mihaita Lazar, Damien Tussac, Christophe Samson, Anthony Jelonch, Ludovic Radosavljevic , Florian Vialelle, Armand Batlle

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