Belfast Telegraph

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Munster aim to ensure Carter doesn't enjoy triumphant return

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Dan Carter looks set to be recalled to the Racing 92 team for Sunday's crunch Champions Cup Pool 4 clash against Munster.

The All Black legend has not played since limping through the corresponding fixture at Thomond Park in October, spending time in Dublin's Santry Sports Surgery Clinic to rehabilitate his damaged knee, and it looks like he'll be pitched back in for the pivotal fixture.

Racing trail Munster by four points in the hunt for a quarter-final spot, but victory at their brand spanking new U-Arena home would blow the pool wide open going into the final games.

Munster are in a commanding position, but the job is far from done for Johann van Graan's men, who will hope for at least a losing bonus point from their trip to Paris.

The addition of Carter, who has never played at the new arena, is a big boost to the Parisians, who are in a rich vein of form having hammered an understrength Clermont side last week.

But his won't be the most significant name on the team-sheet for Reds fans, who will get to see a former stalwart of their own in the sky blue and white stripes in the figure of Donnacha Ryan.

A fixture in the Munster team and an Ireland regular when fit for the past number of years, the second-row will feel he has plenty to prove to an Irish audience on Sunday having been left out of the national team's set-up after deciding to move to Paris.

He has an intimate knowledge of the Reds' set-plays and will be obliged to share that knowledge with his current team-mates.

Peter O'Mahony says there are no plans to change the calling structure despite his former team-mate's inside knowledge.

"Donners knows what we do but we haven't changed anything," he said.

"It's still split second stuff, so even I was given a (opposition) line-out call it would be very hard to react as quick as someone who knows what they're doing. You just have to be good at it."

A lineout expert in his own right, Munster coach Van Graan this week labelled Racing's defensive set-piece second only to the All Blacks. It is high praise, and certainly they put pressure on Rhys Marshall back in October. Throw in the expertise Ryan can bring and lock Jean Kleyn is expecting a tough battle.

"Donnacha's a very tough player, and he's good in the lineout, so he'll bring a real element to their set-piece," Kleyn said.

"As everyone knows, he's a hard man on the pitch, so it will be interesting but I'm looking forward to it.

"You do get a good taste for your team-mates during training, so I know what he's about and it'll be good facing him. He'll be just as excited as we are.

"I think it's going to be a very tough match, obviously it's over at their new home the U-Arena, and it's the first European Cup match there, so they'll be raring to go.

"We'll meet them with full force and hopefully get a good result."

O'Mahony observed that Racing's power across the board has lessened the work-load on Ryan, who can concentrate on the technical side of the game as he partners up with the off-loading king Leone Nakarawa.

Ian Keatley, who will face off against Carter, believes the Tipperary man will have an influence.

"He will bring a little bit of insider knowledge, but what we've talked about is just making sure we focus on our own game. We cannot be worrying about Donnacha. I'm sure he will preview us pretty well, but once it comes game time I don't think he will be worrying about us either," Keatley said.

"If we start really looking at Donnacha or any one of their other players where they've got strength in depth and have world class talent everywhere, if we start to focus on that too much we are walking down the wrong path.

"So our focus is about concentrating on us and making sure we perform physically, tactically, and even our discipline is going to be massive. You want to play against the best players in the world and you want to beat them."

Belfast Telegraph

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