Ruled out: Munster's Conor Murray
MUNSTER have been dealt a major blow ahead of this Saturday’s mammoth European Champions Cup semi-final clash against Saracens with scrum-half Conor Murray, as expected, ruled out of the Aviva Stadium contest, 3.15pm, due to injury.
Ireland scrum-half Murray, named this week in the Lions squad to tour New Zealand this summer, has been struggling with a shoulder injury since mid-March.
Murray, who missed Munster’s Champions Cup quarter-final win over Toulouse with the injury, is again replaced by Duncan Williams at scrum-half.
In a boost to Munster ahead of the clash with the reigning Champions Cup holders, number eight CJ Stander has overcome the ankle injury sustained against Toulouse and is named in the starting XV.
Stander is one of five changes to the side that defeated Ulster in the Guinness PRO12 last weekend in Thomond Park.
The Ireland international, most recently named in his first Lions squad, is the only change to the pack as he joins Lions’ colleague Peter O’Mahony and Tommy O’Donnell in the back row.
An unchanged front five sees Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and John Ryan scrum down in the front row while the squad’s most capped duo of Donnacha Ryan and Billy Holland continue their second row partnership.
Centre Jaco Taute also makes a return as he resumes his European midfield partnership with Rory Scannell who has been deemed fit to play after a knock to his ankle last weekend.
The final change comes by way of winger Andrew Conway who joins Keith Earls and Simon Zebo in the back three.
Named in the replacements is Jean Deysel who will make his Champions Cup debut if sprung from the bench.
MUNSTER: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Jaco Taute, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Tyler Bleyendaal, Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (Capt.), Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander. Replacements: Rhys Marshall, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Dave O’Callaghan, Jean Deysel, Ian Keatley, Francis Saili, Darren Sweetnam.
SARACENS: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Marcelo Bosch, Brad Barritt, Sean Maitland; Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Vincent Koch, Maro Itoje, George Kruis; Michael Rhodes, Jackson Wray, Billy Vunipola. Replacements: Schalk Brits, Titi Lamositele, Petrus du Plessis, Jim Hamilton, Schalk Burger, Ben Spencer, Alex Lozowski, Chris Wyles