Munster Rugby, holders of the record for most appearances in the history of European Cup rugby, will line out for the 159th time on Sunday afternoon when they take on old foes Castres at Stade Pierre Antoine in Pool 4 of this season’s Champions Cup competition.
The southern province is among nine previous tournament winners competing for honours in this the 23rd season of European club rugby, with the 2017-18 final being held at the San Mamés Stadium, Bilbao, in May 2018, for which over 26,000 tickets have already been sold.
Munster’s Director of Rugby, the soon to depart Rassie Erasmus, has made five changes to his side following a comprehensive defeat by Guinness Pro14 rivals Leinster last Saturday.
Simon Zebo is installed at fullback with former Cork GAA star Darren Sweetnam on the right wing, and Keith Earls, who scored two tries at the Aviva Stadium last weekend, on the opposite flank.
Recent addition to the Munster squad from French side Grenoble, Belfast-born Chris Farrell will make his Champions Cup debut at outside centre, with Rory Scannell starting inside him.
Tyler Bleyendaal returns to his more familiar position of fly half and will partner one of the provinces representatives on last summer’s Lions tour to New Zealand, Conor Murray, in the half-backs.
Westmeath-born lock Mark Flanagan, who is currently on loan from Saracens, makes his first start for the province as well as his Champions Cup debut, when he joins Billy Holland in the second row.
Erasmus has chosen Stephen Archer, Niall Scannell and Dave Kilcoyne to start in the front row, with the back row comprising of Tommy O’Donnell, Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander.
15. Simon Zebo, 14. Darren Sweetnam, 13. Chris Farrell, 12. Rory Scannell, 11. Keith Earls, 10. Tyler Bleyendaal, 9. Conor Murray.
1. Dave Kilcoyne, 2. Niall Scannell, 3. Stephen Archer, 4. Mark Flanagan, 5. Billy Holland, 6. Peter O’Mahony (captain), 7. Tommy O’Donnell, 8. CJ Stander.
16. Rhys Marshall, 17. Liam O’Connor, 18. John Ryan, 19. Robin Copeland, 20. Jack O’Donoghue, 21. Duncan Williams, 22. Ian Keatley, 23. Andrew Conway.
Castres Olympique Team:
15. Julien Dumora, 14. Taylor Paris, 13. Afusipa Taumoepeau, 12. Robert Ebersohn, 11. David Smith, 10. Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9. Rory Kockott.
1. Antoine Tichit, 2. Jody Jenneker, 3. Daniel Kotze, 4. Loic Jacquet, 5. Rodrigo Capo Ortega (captain), 6. Yannick Caballero, 7. Steve Mafi, 8. Maama Vaipulu.
16. Marc-Antoine Rallier, 17. Mihaita Lazar, 18. Damien Tussac, 19. Christophe Samson, 20. Anthony Jelonch, 21. Ludovic Radosavljevic, 22. Florian Vialelle, 23. Armand Batlle.
Sunday will be the 13th meeting of these sides in European competition making it the most played fixtures in the history of the tournament.