Munster Rugby look to kick-off campaign with Castres win

Colm Kinsella


Colm Kinsella


Munster Rugby look to kick-off campaign with Castres win

Munster Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus

MUNSTER Rugby kick-off their bid to secure a place in the knock-out stages of the European Cup for a 17th time when locking horns with French Top 14 side Castres Olympique at Stade Pierre Fabre on Sunday.

Sunday's Champions Cup clash will be the 13th meeting between Munster and Castres in European competition, making it the most played fixture in the Cup's history.

Munster are joined in Pool 4 by two sides they also faced at the group stages of last season's competition in Aviva Premiership outfit Leicester Tigers and another French Top 14 side, Ronan O'Gara's Racing 92.

Munster remain hopeful that second-row Jean Kleyn and utility back Simon Zebo will recover from injuries in time for the Pool 4 opener at lunchtime on Sunday.

Erasmus confirmed that Munster will go with a 12-13 combination of Rory Scannell and Chris Farrell for the trip to France, while Keith Earls is set to start on the left wing. Munster will confirm their full line-up at lunchtime on Friday.

Last season's beaten semi-finalists Munster have won nine of their 12 previous meetings with Castres in the Top 14.

Sunday's opponents Castres sit in 11th place in the Top 14 at present, securing just two wins from their opening seven Top 14 fixtures. Captain Rodrigo Capo Ortega and experienced scrum-half Rory Kockott are expected to return for Castres on Sunday following their Top 14 defeat to Brive last weekend.

While Munster have been installed as 8/11 favourites to win the game, Castres are available at 6/5.

Munster Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus is expecting a stern examination from Castres in this weekend's opening round fixture.

Asked about the threat Castres will pose this weekend.

Speaking to the press at a Munster briefing at UL on Tuesday, Erasmus said: “The do have a massive physical pack, they maul well, they scrum well,  they enjoy scrummaging and you can see it.

“They sometimes spend two or three minutes at one spot resetting and resetting and then when they get it going they maul really well, big carrying forwards big moments at the breakdown.

“ I think it is going to be a massive shift for our forwards containing their forwards and then they’ve got a full-back who’s got a top line break. They’ve got this tremendous amount of little attacking kicks so they try so I don’t think they are a typical Racing, or one of those big French teams, I think they mix it up really well with little attacking kicking plays and kicks and stuff so a tough, tough challenge.

“It doesn’t look like they lose a lot of games down there. They beat Clermont there two weeks ago which is a tough, tough ask.”

Following Sunday's game Munster host Racing in their second pool 4 fixture at Thomond Park on Saturday week, October 21, 5.30pm.