Saracens vs Munster

Saracens vs Munster : Saracens face Munster at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday with a place in the Champions Cup final at stake.  Premiership champions Saracens were in ruthless form in the quarter-finals as they scored seven tries to defeat Glasgow 56-27.

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It was a dominant performance from Mark McCall’s side and continued their form in Europe this season which has seen them win all of their matches.

Saracens defeated Glasgow twice in the pool stage and also picked up victories, home and away, against Cardiff and Lyon.

As the only unbeaten side left in this year’s tournament, Saracens have established themselves as the new favourites as they bid to win their third Champions Cup.

Munster had a much tougher time in their quarter-final, coming from behind with a Keith Earls try in the last 10 minutes helping them edge to a 17-13 win in Edinburgh.

The PRO14 side impressed during the pool stage as they topped a group featuring Exeter, Gloucester and Castres. After a win and a draw against the Chiefs, Munster thrashed Gloucester 41-15 at Kingsholm to underline their European credentials.

Saracens were beaten 23-21 at Bristol in the Premiership last weekend but the visitors made a number of changes ahead of the European semi-final.

It followed on from a 26-12 home win over Newcastle and Saracens remain in a strong position, sitting second in the Premiership table with an eight-point cushion over third-placed Gloucester.

Munster, who are second in Conference A, won 38-27 in Benetton on Friday which kept their hopes of a home semi-final in the PRO14 alive. Johann van Graan’s side are in excellent form after a four-match winning run in all competitions.

The team have won 11 of their last 12 matches, with their only defeat in 2019 coming at the Scarlets in March.

The last clash between the teams saw Saracens clinch a 26-10 victory over Munster at the Aviva Stadium two years ago at the same stage in Europe.

Their semi-final victory that day set Saracens on their way to a successful trophy defence as they defeated Clermont.

It was Saracens’ second victory in a row against Munster after a 33-10 victory at Allianz Park in 2015 ended the Irish side’s hopes of reaching the knockout stages.

Munster’s last win over Saracens came earlier in that season after a 14-3 pool stage victory at Thomond Park.

Overall, from eight previous meetings in Europe, Munster have won five, while Saracens have won three.

The Saracens fly-half was rested against Bristol and will undoubtedly have a major role to play for his side on Saturday if they are to reach their third final in four years.

The England captain’s kicking game is a huge factor for Saracens and his consistency with the boot has played a major role in their success in the competition.

The Munster scrum-half will need to produce a big performance if his side are to inflict a first defeat in this year’s competition on Saracens.

Murray has so much ability as an attacking player, both in terms of creating and scoring tries, but his influence will have to be even more pronounced on Saturday in the absence of half-back partner Joey Carbery.

Murray’s defensive game is also vital to Munster – he made 17 tackles during their hard-fought quarter-final victory in Edinburgh – and effectively works as an auxiliary fourth back-rower on occasion.

The Limerick man, who turns 30 on the day of the game on Saturday, has yet to truly return to his best from since missing the start of the season with a neck injury. Will he be back to his best in Coventry on Saturday?

George Kruis will make his 50th European appearance this weekend.

Scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth’s long-awaited return from injury will see him reach a century of games in Europe from the bench.

Captain Brad Barritt has recovered from an ankle injury to slot back in at inside centre alongside Alex Lozowski.

The duo, and Kruis, are three of 10 changes to the starting XV that suffered defeat at Bristol Bears last weekend.

Liam Williams comes back in on the wing while Ben Spencer and Owen Farrell are the half-back pairing.

USA international Titi Lamositele keeps his place in the front row and is joined by Mako Vunipola – his first Sarries appearance since January – and Jamie George.

Maro Itoje partners Kruis in the boiler and Billy Vunipola starts at No 8.

Munster captain Peter O’Mahony will also make his 50th Champions Cup appearance on Saturday. O’Mahony has started each of his 49 appearances in the competition to date, including all 23 of the province’s Champions Cup games over the last three seasons.

Haley starts at full-back with Andrew Conway and Sweetnam on either flank.

Rory Scannell and Chris Farrell form the centre partnership with Conor Murray and Tyler Bleyendaal in the half-backs.

Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and John Ryan pack down in the front row with Jean Kleyn and Tadhg Beirne in the engine room.

O’Mahony, Jack O’Donoghue and CJ Stander complete the starting XV.

Keith Earls misses out due to injury having failed to make it through this week’s training.

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Spencer, 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Jamie George, 3 Titi Lamositele, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 George Kruis, 6 Mike Rhodes, 7 Jackson Wray, 8 Billy Vunipola,

Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Nick Tompkins, 23 David Strettle.

Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Darren Sweetnam, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Conor Murray, 1 Dave Kilcoyne, 2 Niall Scannell, 3 John Ryan, 4 Jean Kleyn, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 7 Jack O’Donoghue, 8 CJ Stander.

Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Dan Goggin.

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