Rugby Union: Heineken Cup - Saracens v Munster
Sunday December 16
Sky Sports 2 3pm
It’s payback time across the continent, as the visitors from the third round of Heineken Cup pool games become the hosts for round four. And the pick of the weekend’s action comes from Watford, where two-time European champions Munster are in town to face Saracens, with the duo locked on 10 points apiece atop Pool 1.
Last week’s visit to Thomond Park saw Sarries match Munster’s physicality and European nous in a tight 15-9 defeat; that they came away with only a losing bonus point owes more to the boot of Owen Farrell (pictured), who missed four penalty attempts, than anything more worrying. This week, though, the Londoners are at home, and don’t have the Thomond Park effect to deal with.
A more solid lineout can be expected, which means bigger carries around the base, and better ball for a dangerous backline that started to threaten late on in Limerick. If Farrell’s radar is switched on, Sarries can be confident of a win and a commanding position in the pool.
That said, this is Munster we’re talking about – and Rob Penney’s men don’t lose easily in the Heineken Cup. Dave O’Callaghan and James Coughlan in particular put in barnstorming performances to penetrate the Saracens defence last week, and with Ronan O’Gara’s boot behind them – not to mention the return to form of Keith Earls – Munster are always dangerous and should be written off at their opponents’ peril. A win will do nicely for the home side.
Elsewhere this weekend, Leinster are out for revenge having had their unbeaten run ended in France last time round. Clermont’s win puts them firmly in charge of Pool 5, but the Irish side will have been disappointed to come away with just a bonus point – they’ll be going for the jugular on Saturday afternoon (Sky Sports 1, 3.40pm).
With Andrew Goodman offering a new threat in their backline, Leinster are a dangerous prospect right now. And, with an impassioned home crowd, the Heineken Cup holders will be looking for a big win. Anything less and an away quarter final looks the best they can do.