Munster Rugby look to Carbery and Crowley axis to unlock Northampton Saints

A make or break fixture for both Northampton Saints and Munster Rugby on Sunday in the Heineken Champions Cup.

This is clearly evident in the team selections from both sides. Hawkeye Sidekick looks at both starting lineups.

Northampton Saints with six changes from the side that failed to fire in the opening weekend loss to La Rochelle on the road.

The manner of the defeat particularly in the opening period required action from management so Courtney Lawes, Rory Hutchinson, Alex Mitchell and Juarno Augustu all return to the lineup.

There are changes in the front row as Alex Waller packs down with prop Ehren Painter and hooker Sam Matavesi. 6-2 split indicating that Saints are looking to take Munster Rugby into an intense pack battle.

Munster Rugby make four personnel changes to the side who lost to Toulouse at a foggy Thomond Park last weekend.

Conor Murray returns to the starting lineup after recovering from the groin injury sustained in international duty with Ireland.

Keith Earls replaces Shane Daly in a back three containing Mike Haley and Calvin Nash. Jack Crowley partners Antoine Frisch in the three quarters which is an interesting move.

Jack O’Donoghue comes into the back row. The switch means that Peter O’Mahony switches to openside flanker. 5:3 split from Munster Rugby on the bench.

A make or break season game in Europe and management have looked to Jack Crowley to provide creativity. Malaki Fekitoa’s absence is a worry and raises concerns about the player.

This weekend was a fixture that many felt was primed for Fekitoa to impress but there is clearly something a miss. Are Munster Rugby again facing down on a player who does not fit the system?

Crowley defensive reads will be tested early and often so this is an interesting selection whether the selection continues into the rest of the season.

It provides more attacking and kicking threat in the back line. Frisch hoping to impress with quick ruck ball to allow an exciting back three on paper to provide game winning contributions.

Murray back in as scrum-half immediately is quite the statement. Craig Casey on the bench. Management have gone with experience to provide a solid foundation for Munster Rugby early doors.

Carbery needs to continue to attack the gain line and it will be interesting to see how this Carbery / Crowley axis actually works. How will the two players synch up in attacking phase play?

A season defining game for both teams with a busy festive period to come. A win here will do wonders for either side who have not set their respective leagues alight this term.

Munster Rugby’s performance against Toulouse needs to be improved this season. Discipline both with or without the ball was pinpointed by management last week. We will see if the team evolve their performance.

Northampton Saints will provide a response after an abject loss to La Rochelle. Easy access for La Rochelle to secure a 32-0 lead at the break and bonus point try secured. Saints responded in the second half but La Rochelle were not troubled.

50/50 game here given the form guide of both sides coming into this fixture. The pack battle looks intriguing with Saints putting onus on an abrasive unit selection. Munster Rugby must fight fire with fire but should settle down to edge this down the stretch.

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