Munster can’t afford Dip in form

NEC Harlequins have turned to veteran Tony Diprose to lead their challenge against Munster at Twickenham tomorrow (1pm).

And coach Mark Evans predicted the game could be one of the Heineken Cup classics as he handed Diprose the captaincy, taking over from Luke Sherriff, who was in charge for the club's ill-fated encounter with Castres last weekend.

Quins have not made as many changes as expected by Munster coach Alan Gaffney, who predicted up to eight alterations from the team beaten in France.

Instead, there are only three alterations, although there is a positional switch as well.

Ugo Monye has recovered from a hand injury and starts on the left wing, and his availability means that Irishman Simon Keogh moves to the right wing.

In the back row, Nick Easter and Diprose take over from Maama Molitika and Kai Horstmann on the blindside flank and at number eight respectively.

Andre Vos misses out due to an ankle injury, so Sherriff continues on the openside flank but relinquishes the captaincy to 33-year-old Diprose, capped ten times by England.

On the bench, James Hayter returns following a groin injury and replaces Cameron Dott, while there is also a place for Roy Winters, who missed the game against Castres.

Apart from Vos and Harder, Will Greenwood (shoulder), Mike Worsley (back), Tani Fuga (knee), Maurice Fitz Gerald (back), Jim Evans (shoulder) and Adrian Jarvis (illness) were unavailable for selection. In addition, both Simon Maling and Geo Cronje are not registered for the Heineken Cup.

Evans pointed out it was the best available side in difficult circumstances but promised Munster a determined challenge.

For his part, Munster's Peter Stringer, who made his debut six years and three months ago, says his ambition win a Heineken Cup medal remains undiluted despite the pain of losing in two finals and two semi-finals.

Stringer was pleased to win the Man of the Match award against Ospreys, although he thought other candidates might have pipped him for the honour on the night.

"I didn't expect it.

"I'm always my own worst critic and I thought I took some wrong options in that game. Still, I haven't had many Man of the Match awards, so I was prepared to take it!"

But records and awards will be far from Stringer's thoughts at Twickenham for the return fixture with Harlequins. Part of the last week was spent analysing the Ospreys game and the other part geared towards new opponents and another type of challenge.

"Obviously we had a good look at the way we played in Limerick," said Stringer. "We had a hard look in some ways because we know we didn't perform for the 80 minutes."

There was a note of frustration in his voice as he explained: "Sometimes we do this, allow the opposition in for a soft score early on, and then, because we know we can step up another gear, we tend to get scores. But after getting on top we sometimes sit back and wait for things to happen.

"It was looking good early in the second-half but we didn't do enough on the day to take the game to a different level and put the opposition away. That was annoying and it's hard to pinpoint why that happened."

While Munster's defence was praised by all concerned, and Stringer was happy on that score, the scrum-half does not want a repeat of having to take Harlequins on without possession of the ball.

"They're the type of team that will attack us from any position on the pitch, they will try to score tries from anywhere even as far back as their own goal line so we have to be much more clever in our approach to this game.

"Obviously we are capable of winning primary phase possession and that's not a worry. What we must do is significantly improve our ball retention and make sure our kicking game is perfect.

"Harlequins will relish the fact that they have an opportunity to do to us what we did to them in Thomond Park a few months ago."

Stringer describes that first game in Limerick as "really tough."

"It wasn't just that we struggled with the score, it was a difficult match and they certainly took the game to us. Maybe we were a bit surprised by that at the time but there will be no surprise if it happens this weekend."

Neither is he, or his team-mates, lulled into any sense of false security after Harlequins' demise in Castres last week.

"We all know the damage French sides can do when they play at home. We have suffered ourselves over the years. Sure, it was a big score and people will say that our job should be easier as a result.

"I don't think that will be the case. There will be changes and this will be a very different Harlequins team with on a new mission.

"They're playing for pride at this stage but it's a big day for them to play in Twickenham and they will want to bow out of the tournament with a victory.

"We saw the last time that they were a very capable side despite the fact that they were coming off the back of a run of defeats.

"They proved they can bounce back and they did make life very difficult for us."

If, however, Harlequins believe their fans will be in the majority, Stringer believes they could be in for a shock.

"I have no doubt that there will be thousands of Irish supporters cheering for us at Twickenham.

"I just know they will come out in force because they will want to see an Irish team win there.

"We don't get opportunities to win there that often. When we do, it's always a very special occasion"

HARLEQUINS: G. Duffy, S. Keogh, D. James, M. Deane, U. Monye, A. Dunne, S. So'oialo, C. Jones, A. Tiatia, J. Dawson, K. Rudzki, S. Miall, N. Easter, T. Diprose (captain), L. Sherriff.

Replacements: J. Hayter, T. Muggridge, R. Winters, M. Molitika, A. Reay, J. Staunton, T. Williams.

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