European Champions Cup: Saracens v Munster

Mako Vunipola
Mako Vunipola's last Saracens game was against Lyon in the pool stages
European Champions Cup semi-final
Venue: Ricoh Arena Date: Saturday, 20 April Kick-off: 15:00 BST Coverage: Full commentary on BBC local radio and live text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Prop Mako Vunipola will make his first Saracens appearance since January against Munster after an ankle injury picked up on England duty.

Centre Brad Barritt, who was injured in the quarter-final win over Glasgow, and number eight Billy Vunipola also start.

Winger Keith Earls is missing for Munster after failing to recover from a thigh injury.

Tyler Bleyendaal starts at fly-half in place of Joey Carbery, while Peter O'Mahony is back to lead the side.

The flanker was one of a number of players rested in last weekend's 37-28 win at Benetton.

Liam Williams returns on the wing for Saracens after missing the club's last two games with a minor hamstring problem.

Munster are attempting to end a run of six semi-final defeats in the competition. They last reached the final in 2008 when they beat Toulouse to lift the trophy for the second time.

Saracens head coach Mark McCall believes they are a stronger side than the one his team beat 26-10 in the last four en route to winning the title in 2017.

Saracens score against Munster in 2017
Saracens emerged victorious the last time the teams met - in the semi-final of the 2017 tournament at the Aviva Stadium

"Their defence is the area that I see as the thing that they have most improved. It's difficult to win set-piece ball against them and I think they have added some strings to their bow in attack," he said.

"There is no obvious weakness. They do the fundamental things brilliantly, so we know we are in for a really tough challenge."

Munster centre Chris Farrell says his side need to match the English side's physicality to give themselves a platform in the game.

"They are consistently a really physical side, so that will be key for us is to stop their momentum," he said. "They rely on set-piece and the contact area."

Match stats

  • Saracens have won three of their last four games against Munster in the tournament, after losing each of their first four prior to that run.
  • Saracens and Munster have met twice before in the semi-final with Munster winning 18-16 at the Ricoh Arena in 2008 while Saracens secured a 26-10 victory at the Aviva Stadium in 2017; on each occasion the winning side went on to lift the trophy.
  • Saracens have reached the semi-final stage for the sixth time in the last seven seasons, progressing to the final from three of their last four appearances.
  • Saracens have averaged more points (34.4) and tries (4.3) per game than any other side this season.
  • Munster have averaged fewer metres (280) and breaks (5) per game than any other side and have also averaged the most kicks during play (25).
  • Munster's CJ Stander has made the most tackles (112), and he is also one of just three players to make 100+ carries (also Viliame Mata 141 and James Ryan 103).
  • Munster lock Tadhg Beirne has won the most turnovers (14) to date. Saracens and England hooker, Jamie George, has hit the target with 94% of this lineout throws (80/85), the best rate of any of the 16 players to take 30+ throws.

Saracens: Goode, Maitland, Lozowski, Barritt, Williams; Farrell, Spencer; M Vunipola, George, Lamositele, Itoje, Kruis, Rhodes, Wray, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Gray, Barrington, Koch, Skelton, Burger, Wigglesworth, Tompkins, Strettle.

Munster: Haley; Conway, Farrell, Scannell, Sweetnam; Bleyendaal, Murray; Kilcoyne, Scannell, Ryan; Kleyn, Beirne; O'Mahony (C), O'Donoghue, Stander.

Replacements: Marshall, Loughman, Archer, Holland, Botha, Mathewson, JJ Hanrahan, Goggin.

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