The push for the win that will guarantee a home quarter-final has been entrusted to players including Tommy O’Donnell, James Cronin and Ronan O’Mahony, all restored to the starting XV.
All three began the rearranged round one fixture in Paris a fortnight ago, which Munster won 32-7, although O’Donnell failed to finish the match due to an ankle injury. The openside flanker missed last weekend’s 14-12 win at Scotstoun but is named in the Munster back row at the expense of Jack O’Donoghue, who reverts to the bench.
Cronin continues to alternate with fellow loosehead prop Dave Kilcoyne while Ronan O’Mahony is reinstated on the left wing, replacing Keith Earls, who misses out having suffered a rib injury in training earlier this week.
O’Mahony is Munster’s top try scorer this season with six, one ahead of both Andrew Conway and Simon Zebo, whom he joins in Munster’s back three this evening. Both right wing Conway and full-back Zebo scored tries in the bonus-point win at Stade Yves du Manoir with the later, Munster’s record try scorer with 50, bringing his total against Racing to five tries in three games.
The rest of the backline is retained from the narrow win at Glasgow with Conor Murray once again combining in the half-backs with Tyler Bleyendaal while the midfield partnership of Rory Scannell and Jaco Taute continues to keep All Black Francis Saili on the bench despite his match-winning try last week.
The front row will see Cronin pack down with hooker Niall Scannell and tighthead John Ryan while Jean Kleyn and Donnacha Ryan once again form the second row while behind them O’Donnell is reunited with captain Peter O’Mahony and No.8 CJ Stander.
O’Donoghue’s inclusion on the bench means Dave Foley drops out with the lock named in the Munster A side which travelled to London to play Saracens Storm last night, Billy Holland covering the second row in Limerick today.
With Racing’s European interests already at an end, the Parisians have predictably left a number of frontliners at home to rest up before their troubled Top 14 campaign resumes against Lyon next weekend. So it’s a ‘non’ to Dan Carter, Joe Rokocoko and Juan Imhoff and au revoir Gerbrandt Grobler and Casey Laulala, to name but five high-profile absentees.
With a club as rich as Racing and resources to build a squad of superstars they will arrive at Thomond Park with some quality still in their ranks, not least their three France internationals called into Les Bleus Six Nations squad. Front rowers Camille Chat and Eddie Ben Arous as well as scrum-half Maxime Machenaud have all made the trip to Ireland as they will be unavailable to Racing after this weekend.
Machenaud will partner veteran fly-half Benjamin Dambielle in the absence of Carter while Brice Dulin starts at full-back in a back three featuring veteran Marc Andreu on the left wing and Teddy Thomas on the right while the pack features Fijian powerhouse Leone Nakawara in the second and blindside flanker Yannick Nyanga.
On the bench there is a pair of former All Black forwards in Ali Williams and Chris Masoe as well as Munster target, Irish scrum-half James Hart.