PREVIEW: Racing 92 v Munster
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Munster captain Peter O'Mahony wants his men to channel their emotion into a winning performance in their rearranged European Rugby Champions Cup clash with Racing 92.
Munster and the rest of the rugby world mourned when Director of Rugby Anthony Foley passed away in Paris ahead of the fixture in October. The Irish province return to Stade Yves-du-Manoir for their Round One clash on Saturday as they look to retake top spot in Pool One from Glasgow Warriors.
O'Mahony's men have gone on to record big victories over Glasgow Warriors and Leicester Tigers since, before a last minute defeat in the return leg at Welford Road. They currently sit second behind the Warriors, but can rise to the top if they inflict a fourth successive European defeat on Racing.
"Obviously, there's no two ways about it, it's going to be a difficult week for a lot of guys but you've got to stick to the routine, stick to what we normally do in a week and try and keep the head down," said O'Mahony. "Ronan O'Gara is too big a competitor to let this one slip and he'll be teeing them up for us.
"We are preparing for the best team we've played against this campaign and the quality they have and the performance they are going to put in, so we're going to have to be good."
Last season's runners-up Racing are out of Europe after their trio of defeats, and they look set to name a much changed side this weekend. They have delisted France international Remi Tales from their squad and may be without key-men Dan Carter and Maxime Machenaud.
But head coach Laurent Labit reckons Racing have the perfect spy in his assistant Ronan O'Gara, who lifted a pair of European cups with his native Munster.
He said: "It's very tough fixture always against Munster. We have been watching them since the start of the season but we also have the best spy possible with Ronan O'Gara to know how they function.
"It's funny because he's got mixed feeling about meeting Munster. It's his club of heart, of love. He feels like betraying them. Of course, he wants Racing to win but, strangely, he's not happy facing them."
Racing 92 and Munster have met twice previously in European competition; both matches in the 2012/13 pool stage were won by the home side on the day. Racing have lost three of their four fixtures against Irish opposition in the Champions Cup.
Racing have lost their last four Champions Cup games, but have not lost more consecutive matches since a run of six defeats from 2010 to 2011.
Although they lost at home to Glasgow Warriors in Round Three, Racing have won six of their last seven home pool stage games with the victories coming by an average margin of 27 points.
Munster have lost their last two away games against Top 14 opposition, but have not lost more consecutive games away to French clubs since their first five matches from 1995 to 1998.
Munster have conceded two tries in their three games so far this season and are the only side in the tournament with a concession rate of less than one per game.
Both tries conceded by Munster have come in the final quarter and they are the only side yet to concede in the first hour of their matches
Racing are one of just two teams (along with Leinster) yet to lose a scrum on their own put-in this season (17/17).
The 2006 and 2008 champions need one try to reach 400 in Europe's top flight. Munster would become the third club to reach this milestone with Toulouse and Leicester Tigers.
Leone Nakarawa has made 14 offloads, the most of any player, despite Racing playing just three games to date this season.
Racing 92: 15 Juan Imhoff, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Anthony Tuitavke, 11 Teddy Thomas, 10 Benjamin Dambielle, 9 Xavier Chauveau, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Matthieu Voisin, 6 Chris Masoe, 5 Francois van der Merwe, 4 Gerbrandt Grobler, 3 Luc Ducalcon, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Khatchik Vartanov.
Replacements: 16 Virgile Lacombe, 17 Julien Brugnaut, 18 Cedate Gomes Sa, 19 Ali Williams, 20 So'otala Fa'aso'o, 21 James Hart, 22 Dan Carter, 23 Henry Chavancy.
Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Ronan O'Mahony, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Christian Stander, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Peter O'Mahony (captain), 5 Billy Holland, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Dave Foley, 20 Jack O'Donoghue, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Keith Earls, 23 Francis Saili.
Date: Saturday, January 7
Venue: Stade Yves-du-Manoir, Paris
Kick-off: 16.45; 15.45 GMT
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Tim Wigglesworth (England), Paul Dix (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)