As expected Racing make 13 changes to the shadow side they sent to Stade Ernest Wallon for a Top14 game at Toulouse. Only veteran wing Marc Andreu, man of the match in the Champions Cup quarter-final victory at Clermont, and back-rower Yannick Nyanga have survived the cull by joint head coaches Laurent Travers and Laurent Labit, though Nyanga switches from blindside to start at No. 8 against Munster.
The Parisians field a side more in line with their first-choice European XV with France scrum-half Maxime Machenaud captain in a half-back partnership with South Africa fly-half Pat Lambie, though it was Remi Tales who started at 10 when Racing beat Munster 34-30 at the U Arena in their pool clash in round five in January.
Another significant absentee will be 140kg-plus tighthead prop Ben Tameifuna, who drops out of the matchday squad with rookie French international Cedric Gomes Sa starting, backed up by Viliamu Afatia. Former Munsterman Donnacha Ryan is partnered in the second row by the marauding Fijian Leone Nakarawa, who started the pool game against Munster at No.8, while Bernard Le Roux comes in at openside and Wenceslas Lauret returns at number six.
There are two All Blacks on the Racing replacements bench with Dan Carter providing fly-half cover for Lambie, the pair playing in tandem to close out the game, and Joe Rokocoko the outside backs substitute.
📋 COMPO | Racing 92 vs Munster Rugby | #R92MUN— Racing 92 (@racing92) April 20, 2018
La voilà ! Menée par Maxime Machenaud, découvrez l'équipe du Racing qui affrontera le @Munsterrugby lors de la demi-finale de @ChampionsCup !
Allez Racing ! #RacingFamily pic.twitter.com/l31q8yANNR
The presence of Donnacha Ryan in the Racing second row marks the second time the Tipperary man has faced his native province this season having made the crucial take of a Racing restart to allow his side to score two late penalties and rescue victory.
This semi-final also means another reunion for Ryan, 34, and Keith Earls, 30, who were both unused replacements on the Munster bench for their 2008 Heineken Cup final win over Toulouse at the Millennium Stadium. Donncha O’Callaghan and Peter Stringer are the only other players from Declan Kidney’s squad that day who are still active.
Johann van Graan welcomes back a fit-again Keith Earls to the Munster back three for his first appearance in red since the Champions Cup round six pool win over Castres.
Earls, a nominee for 2018 Six Nations player of the championship, injured a knee towards the end of Ireland’s Grand Slam-clinching win over England at Twickenham on March 17 and was expected to be out of action for six weeks but has made a faster than anticipated recovery and will start on the right wing to make his 150th appearance for Munster tomorrow.
There are nine changes in total to the side that beat PRO14 conference play-off rivals the Cheetahs 19-17 in Bloemfontein last Friday to secure a home play-off quarter-final next month with full-back Simon Zebo dropped to the bench for this game against the club he will join next season.
Andrew Conway is switched from the wing to replace Zebo at full-back with Alex Wootton coming into the side on the left wing.
Midfield sees a return to the 12 jersey for Rory Scannell, who replaces Dan Goggin to partner outside centre Sammy Arnold while the half-back partnership of Conor Murray and Ian Keatley is restored at the expense of James Hart and JJ Hanrahan respectively, both of whom move onto the replacements, scrum-half Hart having completed his return to play protocols following a failed Head Injury Assessment during the Cheetahs game.
The pack sees Dave Kilcoyne return at loosehead, replacing starter Brian Scott, who drops out of the matchday 23 with James Cronin having recovered from a shoulder/stinger suffered against the Southern Kings, while on the tighthead side Stephen Archer starts having switched places with John Ryan.
At lock Jean Kleyn returns to partner Billy Holland with Gerbrandt Grobler named on the bench and in the back row, Jack O’Donoghue has recovered from an ankle injury suffered late in the Cheetahs game to start at openside flanker alongside captain Peter O’Mahony and returning No.8 CJ Stander, meaning a bench place for Robin Copeland.
Squad Announcement 📢| @KEITHEARLS87 returns to be named in the starting XV for his 150th appearance in red 🔴— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) April 20, 2018
The winger is one of 9 changes for #R92vMUN #BordeauxBound🇫🇷
Team news here >> https://t.co/z2PK4bWJ5G #SUAF pic.twitter.com/Jmiz0b36ox
Munster captain Peter O’Mahony has the honour of leading his team into a record 13th semi-final in tomorrow’s showdown with Racing 92 and the game in Bordeaux sees the province come full circle as they return to a stadium that hosted their very first visit to the last four of this illustrious competition.
That came 18 seasons ago on May 6, 2000 when Stade Chaban-Delmas delivered a famous 31-25 victory over French and European aristocrats Toulouse.