Donnacha Ryan set for quick Thomond return

Donnacha Ryan will join Ronan O’Gara as part of Racing 92’s contingent bidding to conquer fortress Thomond Park in Munster’s first home European fixture of the season, which was announced yesterday.

Munster won’t be without their own insider knowledge for that clash of familiar rivals at 5.30pm on Saturday, October 21, having signed second-row replacement for Ryan Gerbrandt Grobler and scrum-half James Hart from Racing.

That all comes six days after Munster return from France, having faced Castres Olympique at the 11,500-capacity Stade Pierre-Antoine for their Champions Cup opener (Sunday, October 15 at 1pm, Irish time). However, that will be the only unfamiliar assignment for last year’s semi-finalists, with Leicester Tigers once again the back-to-back December opponents for Munster.

Leicester will return to Thomond Park at 7.45pm on Saturday, December 9, to try to banish the memories of their 38-0 whitewashing last year. The Welford Road repeat takes place the following Sunday, December 17, at 5.30pm.

Leinster will also welcome some familiar faces back to the RDS as Montpellier return on Saturday, October 14, for their Pool 3 opener. Leo Cullen’s men avenged an away loss to the French side with a 57-3 pummelling last January en route to the tournament semi-finals.

Leinster travel to Scotstoun to face Glasgow Warriors on Saturday, October 21, another 1pm kick-off.

English Premiership champions Exeter Chiefs will provide the opposition for the back-to-back fixtures, with a trip to Sandy Park on Sunday, December 10, before the Aviva Stadium rematch on Saturday, December 16, at 3.15pm.

The competition will kick-off at Ulster’s Kingspan Stadium on Friday, October 13, at 7.45pm. Their opposition, Wasps, will be accustomed to the venue having beaten the hosts 26-15 in a pre-season friendly last Thursday.

Away trips to French newcomers La Rochelle, who topped the Top 14 regular season standings last year, on October 22 and Harlequins on December 10 follow before the Ravenhill return against the London club on December 15.

Three-in-a-row chasers Saracens face runners-up Clermont-Auvergne in a pair of thrilling December fixtures.

Meanwhile, new Connacht coach Kieran Keane is planning for two early away trips against French opposition as their first four Challenge Cup fixtures were released.

However, their first game will take place in Geneva, Switzerland as second-tier Pro D2 champions Oyonnax drive an hour across the border to the 30,000-capacity Stade de Geneve on October 14.

Connacht will welcome Donncha O’Callaghan, Peter Stringer, and rest of the Worcester Warriors squad to the Sportsground the following Saturday, October 21.

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