Johann van Graan is very close to having his first-choice XV for the back-to-back meetings with the French champions.

MUNSTER HEAD COACH Johann van Gran has added CJ Stander and Joey Carbery to his starting line-up for Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup pool 2 encounter with Castres at Thomond Park [kick-off 1pm, BT Sport].

Carbery returns after international duty and partners Conor Murray at half-back for the first time in Munster colours.

Stander replaces Arno Botha at number eight to form a potent back row combination with Peter O’Mahony and Chris Cloete.

The two returning internationals are the only changes to the starting XV that roared to a 44-14 win over Edinburgh last Friday as Andrew Conway (knee) and Mike Haley (HIA) have come through the training week unscathed. An illness kept Stephen Archer out of training this week, however.

Alby Mathewson has shaken off his injury to take a place among the replacements, joining JJ Hanrahan and Sam Arnold as back-line cover.

Nine days on from his first start since a serious ACL injury in February, Chris Farrell will reform his midfield partnership with Rory Scannell, while the presence of Tadhg Beirne also brings a dynamic look to the tight five.

Munster will be glad to have such abrasive power in their ranks as Castres have this season shown a greater will to succeed in Europe this season.

With a narrow defeat in Gloucester and a 14-man win over Exeter behind them, injury to their captain Rodrigo Capo Ortega is one of five changes made to their starting team after a disappointing home loss to Agen last weekend.

Out-half Benjamin Urdapilleta, centre Thomas Combezou and fullback Scott Spedding will form part of a formidable challenge for Munster at lunchtime on Sunday.

15. Mike Haley
14. Andrew Conway
13. Chris Farrell
12. Rory Scannell
11. Keith Earls
10. Joey Carbery
9. Conor Murray

1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Niall Scannell
3. John Ryan
4. Tadhg Beirne
5. Billy Holland
6. Peter O’Mahony (Captain)
7. Chris Cloete
8. CJ Stander


16. Kevin O’Byrne
17. Jeremy Loughman
18. Ciaran Parker
19. Fineen Wycherly
20. Arno Botha
21. Alby Mathewson
22. JJ Hanrahan
23. Sam Arnold

15. Scott Spedding
14. Armand Batlle
13. Thomas Combezou
12. Florian Vialelle
11. Taylor Paris
10. Benjamin Urdapilleta
9. Ludovic Radosavljevic

1. Antoine Tichit
2. Jody Jenneker
3. Daniel Kotze
4. Loic Jacquet
5. Thibault Lassalle
6. Mathieu Babillot (captain)
7. Kevin Gimeno
8. Alex Tulou


16. Kevin Firmin
17. Paea Fa’anunu
18. Marc Clerc
19. Christophe Samson
20. Yannick Caballero
21. Julien Caminati
22. Martin Laveau
23. Rory Kockott

Murray Kinsella, Gavan Casey and Andy Dunne preview a big weekend of Heineken Cup action and dissect the week’s main talking points.


Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

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