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Munster v Saracens, Thomond Park, Saturday, 5.30 – Live on BT Sport
The dust having settled on the thriller with Racing a fortnight ago, that draw has left Munster in familiar must-win territory for another of the time-honoured Saturday evening Anglo-Irish affairs which have richly decorated the Heineken Champions Cup.
The build-up to this eagerly awaited fixture has been dominated by speculation on Saracens’ selection and at face value Munster’s chances of victory appear to have been enhanced as, true to his word, Mark McCall has opted to rotate his squad. Maro Itoje is the only member of their six-strong contingent from England’s World Cup final starting XV travelling to Limerick.
Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Vincent Koch, George Kruis, Billy Vunipola, Richard Wigglesworth, Owen Farrell, Duncan Taylor, Sean Maitland and Elliot Daly have remained at home. But McCall has strongly intimated many of them will be back for the return meeting in Allianz Park next Saturday.
“You know the situation we’re in,” McCall told The Irish Times yesterday. “What we have, post-World Cup, is 15 consecutive matches, nine Premiership and six European Cup games. Probably in the past, like Munster do and like Leinster do, you target these European Cup games and you rest your international players around them. We’re not in that position this time, so we kind of figured out a plan that gives us a chance of qualification in Europe but allows us to spread our resources over all those 15 games in a sensible way.
“A lot of those players who you’ve named there will be involved next weekend. We’ve got a few non-internationals who have played a hell of a lot as well and we need to look after them. We haven’t finally made that decision yet but we’ll probably involve some of those international players who aren’t playing this weekend next weekend.”
This team features 10 of the starting line-up and 13 of the match-day squad from Saracens’ opening pool game against Racing in Paris, when they were beaten 30-10. But they’ve also formed the core of the side that helped them win three of their opening four matches before the big guns returned for last week’s
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