George Kruis will make his 50th European appearance this weekend when Saracens take on Munster in the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals.
The second row made his debut in the competition back in the 2010/11 season and was instrumental in Sarries’ back-to-back successes.
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 Number 8.
Saracens team to face Munster in the Heineken Champions Cup semi-final at the Ricoh Arena (KO 15H00):
FORWARDS: Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Titi Lamositele, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Mike Rhodes, Jackson Wray, Billy Vunipola.
BACKS: Alex Goode, Sean Maitland, Alex Lozowski, Brad Barritt, Liam Williams, Owen Farrell, Ben Spencer.
REPLACEMENTS: Joe Gray, Richard Barrington, Vincent Koch, Will Skelton, Schalk Burger, Richard Wigglesworth, Nick Tompkins, David Strettle.
Head Coach Johann van Graan has named the Munster side for Saturday’s record 14th Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens at the Ricoh Arena (3pm, live on BT Sport and beIN Sports).
There are 12 changes to the side that earned an impressive win away to Benetton in Italy last weekend as Mike Haley, Darren Sweetnam and Jack O’Donoghue keep their places.
Munster captain Peter O’Mahony leads the side on his 50th Champions Cup appearance. 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, 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.
Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Darren Sweetnam; Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony (C), Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Jeremy Loughman, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Arno Botha, Alby Mathewson, JJ Hanrahan, Dan Goggin.
Saracens Face EPCR Misconduct Hearing
Saracens are set to face yet another hearing but this time it’s on the European front
Saracens are set to face a misconduct hearing with the EPCR today at 18 00 the European Rugby body have confirmed.
The reigning Champions Cup holders are in trouble after they informed officials earlier in the week that they may have fielded an ineligible player during their Champions Cup win over Racing 92 last month which sealed them a quarter-final place.
The player in question is Titi Lamositele, who came off the bench in the 60th minute of the clash against the Top 14 side. It is understood that when the squad was announced for the game that the player was eligible.
However, his work permit did in fact expire on January 18th, with the game taking place on the 19th, which could have caused a breach in the disciplinary rules.
It is the latest blow in what has been a dramatic season to date for the Premiership outfit, who were found to have breached salary cap regulations in the competition and being fined and docked points before being relegated outright last month.
They were docked further points recently to ensure that they will finish the season in last place in the Premiership.
While on the European front they have already caused problems for the EPCR by failing to show up to the competition’s opening event.
Despite all the drama they have managed to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup and will face last season’s beaten finalists Leinster away from home, but it remains to be seen what their latest punishment could be if found guilty.
Ireland Tie Star Down with New Contract
Ireland have confirmed that one of their key men has committed his future to both the national side and his province
Ireland lock James Ryan has signed a new three-year deal with the IRFU which expires at the end of the 2022/23 season.
The 23-year-old has starred for both Ireland and Leinster since his debut for both in 2017, becoming a key player and leader on the pitch and he is excited to continue on both fronts.
“I’m delighted to sign an IRFU contract. A lot has been packed into the start of my professional career with both Ireland and Leinster and there has been some great success and a few disappointments, but I’m involved in two very exciting squads that want to be challenging for trophies,” he said.
Having made the step into test rugby at only 20, Ryan adapted quickly and has gone on to add 24-caps to his name, including playing a main role in Ireland’s Six Nations Grand Slam success in 2018, as well as standing out in their Rugby World Cup campaign last year.
IRFU high performance director David Nucifora believes that despite already being a key figure for both his teams Ryan will only continue to get better.
“James is still a young man but he has delivered consistent high level performances for both Ireland and Leinster. He is growing into a leadership role with the national team and has a big future for both Ireland and Leinster,” he said.
For his province Ryan has made a total of 37 appearances and has tasted success since his first game in 2017, while before his professional career kicked-off he captained Ireland U20’s to the World Rugby Championship final in 2016.
His new contract also sees him move from a provincial deal to centrally funded one, much like Connacht ace Bundee Aki, who agreed similar terms to Ryan back in November.
It is a massive boost for both club and country as they look to triumph on several fronts in the coming years.
However, up first for Ryan is a clash with current Grand Slam holders Wales on Saturday in the second round of this year’s Six Nations championship, where he will be hoping to help the boys in green to a second win in a row following their opening round victory over Scotland.
Munster Complete Trio of Signings
Munster have confirmed the arrival of three new players for the 2020/21 season, in what is a major boost for the Irish province
Munster have announced the signing of three players in the form of Matt Gallagher, Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.
The trio have all signed two-year deals with the southern Irish province keeping them at the club until June 2022 at least.
Both players starred in that World Cup win, playing throughout the tournament, and both are currently playing in the Japanese Top League.
Meanwhile Gallagher joins from Saracens following their recent relegation from the English Premiership after their breaches of the salary cap relegations. He joined the club at 14 and after nine years will add some fresh blood to the Munster ranks.
Speaking on the signings Munster head coach Johann van Graan is delighted to have bolstered the options in the squad as they look to improve next season after already being knocked-out of the Champions Cup this season.
“From a business point of view, I’m really pleased that Munster has secured the calibre of these players. In terms of Damian and RG, it’s testament to the worldwide standing of this club that two World Cup-winning Springboks will arrive here next summer. On a personal level, I know them both very well and in addition to being world-class athletes they are great men. They will add value to everything we are striving to achieve at Munster and I know our supporters will be eagerly looking forward to their arrival. Equally, getting Matt on board is fantastic for our backline options. He is an exciting young talent that can play in a number of positions and is from a great rugby pedigree,” he said.
Munster fans will be delighted with the incomings and it should help them progress further on the European stage from next season as well as bringing them closer to competing for domestic honours too.
Leinster Smash Glasgow in Another Win
PRO14 Issue Statement on Coronavirus
Six Nations and Premiership Could Lock Horns
2019/20 Season Fixtures & Results
These are class. All the Irish Rugby Gifs
The Low-down on Ulster’s New Signings
Rugby5 days ago
Savea’s Shock Plans for the Future
Pro141 week ago
Ulster Change Five for Cheetahs Game
Premiership1 week ago
Bristol Make Loanee a Permanent Signing
6 Nations1 week ago
Four Changes for England Ahead of Ireland Showdown
Pro144 days ago
Ulster Secure Services of Former All Black
Premiership3 days ago
Exeter Closing in on England Starlet
Super Rugby1 week ago
Brumbies Mumps Outbreak Confirmed
Premiership1 week ago
Premiership Duo Eye English Prospect