Sarries' Lions picks named for semi-final trip to Munster
|European Champions Cup semi-final|
|Venue: Aviva Stadium Date: Saturday, 22 April Kick-off: 15:15 BST|
|Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and text updates on the BBC Sport website|
All six Saracens players selected for the British and Irish Lions tour are in the XV for the Champions Cup semi-final against Munster in Dublin on Saturday.
Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Billy Vunipola and Owen Farrell all start.
Munster’s Lions scrum-half Conor Murray has been ruled out with an ongoing shoulder/neck problem.
However CJ Stander, who was also named in Warren Gatland’s Lions squad this week, returns at number eight.
With Murray ruled out, Duncan Williams is named at scrum-half while Tyler Bleyendaal, Jaco Taute and Andrew Conway are also drafted into the backs after missing last weekend’s Pro12 win over Ulster.
Munster’s other Lions selection Peter O’Mahony starts in the back row with Stander.
Munster best defensive team in Europe – McCall
“Munster are the best defensive team in Europe – that’s what the stats say and when you watch them you can see why,” said Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall.
“Their kicking game is outstanding, they’ve got more dangerous runners than people give them credit for and the spine of their team is outstanding and when teams have a spine like that you’ve got to respect them.”
Reigning champions Saracens are competing in their fifth consecutive European semi-final.
The Premiership champions last faced Munster in the group stages of the 2014-15 tournament, losing 14-3 at Thomond Park before winning 33-10 in the reverse fixture at Allianz Park.
“Emotion is not going to be enough – we’re playing against a very smart, well-coached team, who are hard to break down and work as hard as any team we’ve analysed this year,” added McCall.
“But we’ve got a very experienced group who like these occasions and it brings the best out of them so they’re really looking forward to it.”
Munster form honouring Foley’s memory
Munster have been riding their own wave of emotion this year following the sudden death of head coach Anthony Foley in October.
Since then, the twice European champions have produced brilliant form in the Champions Cup and Pro12 and they will present a huge challenge to the holders at the Aviva Stadium.
However, Munster wing Simon Zebo believes Saracens will be undaunted by having to travel to Ireland.
“Saracens are the defending champions and are an unbelievable side,” said Zebo.
“We will show them respect but, having said that, we will give it our best shot.”
Munster: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Jaco Taute, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Tyler Bleyendaal, Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (capt), Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Rhys Marshall, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Dave O’Callaghan, Jean Deysel, Ian Keatley, Francis Saili, Darren Sweetnam.
Saracens: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Marcelo Bosch, Brad Barritt (capt), Sean Maitland; Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Vincent Koch; Maro Itoje, George Kruis; Michael Rhodes, Jackson Wray, Billy Vunipola
Replacements: Schalk Brits, Titi Lamositele, Petrus Du Plessis, Jim Hamilton, Schalk Burger, Ben Spencer, Alex Lozowski, Chris Wyles
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