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In what is arguably the match of the weekend, Munster Rugby take on Saracens in a repeat of the 2018/19 Heineken Champions Cup semi-final on Saturday at Thomond Park, live on BT Sport and beIN SPORTS from 17:30 GMT.
Pool 4 is finely poised with Munster Rugby sitting second with seven points while Saracens are third with five points after a comprehensive success over Ospreys.
Johann van Graan (Munster): “Every area is a key area from their side. They had 17 players that went to the World Cup. Nine of that squad played in a World Cup final. They have a very experienced squad, a lot of continuity, with incredible line-out threats from (Maro) Itoje and George Kruis, and ball-carriers in their pack and scrum.”
Mark McCall (Saracens): “Munster are one of those clubs that always get to the semi-final or final, always get out of their pool, so we know we are playing against one of the European powerhouses. There have been a few changes to their coaching staff this year. Stephen Larkham will obviously make a significant difference.”
Johann van Graan is primed and ready for a battle this weekend as @Munsterrugby welcome reigning champions @Saracens 🤜🤛
But which side will land the first #HeinekenChampionsCup blow?
Here's what he had to say ahead of a mouth-watering match-up 👇https://t.co/5wJRo0yiEC
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 4, 2019
- Munster have lost just two of their last 37 home games in the pool stage of the Heineken Champions Cup, against Clermont in 2014/15 and Leicester Tigers in 2015/16 (W34, D1), and are unbeaten in each of their last 11 such matches (W10, D1).
- Saracens have won 14 of their 23 fixtures against Irish opposition in the Heineken Champions Cup, and only Toulouse (P34 W16) have won more matches against the provinces.
- Munster are unbeaten in their last six pool games against Gallagher Premiership opposition (W5, D1), winning their last three in a row.
- Saracens lost their last away game against Racing 92 in Round 1, however, they have not lost consecutive away games in a Heineken Champions Cup campaign since 2005/06.
- Munster have missed just 31 tackles in the tournament this season, fewer than any other club, and only Leinster (90%) and Bath (89.1%) have a better tackle success rate than Johann van Graan’s side (88.6%).
- Munster are one of just six clubs with a 100% scrum success rate, winning each of the 11 scrums on their own put-in.
- Munster’s CJ Stander has made 47 carries after two rounds, 10 more than any other player in the competition.
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A first half try from Munster Rugby captain Peter O’Mahony was enough for the Irish province to defeat Saracens 10-3 in Heineken Champions Cup Pool 4 at a damp Thomond Park.
Munster dominated the opening 20 minutes and finally turned their dominance into points after a penalty in front of the posts was slotted over by JJ Hanrahan.
Just after the half-hour mark, Munster finally grabbed their opening try. A neat pass from Rory Scannell released Keith Earls who got close to the line before Conor Murray handed to Peter O’Mahony and he barged past for his first score in 11 months.
Saracens cut the gap just before the interval through Ben Spencer, who – after the initial penalty kick hit the post – got another opportunity after Munster couldn’t clear their lines and took full advantage.
The English had the first chance of the second half through Spencer again, and his penalty attempt would swing left and onto the post again, but would be cleared successfully on this occasion.
🔴 The Big Red Castle 🔴
#HeinekenChampionsCup games are made for the Thomond Park atmosphere 🎚 pic.twitter.com/wb7vtaqeU1
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) December 7, 2019
The match was a real arm wrestle in the second half with neither side creating any real attacking opportunities but it was not without late drama.
Munster had kicked the ball out for a crucial win but TMO was consulted and Arno Botha was issued a red card as a result for a dangerous tackle.
That gave Saracens one last chance of salvaging a draw but the line-out was stolen by Jack O’Donoghue and that was enough to give Munster the victory.
The two sides will clash again in Round 4 next Saturday at Allianz Park.
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