Heineken Cup round-up: Munster centre Downey wary of Saracens

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JAMES Downey has no doubt about the size of Munster’s challenge when Heineken Cup rivals Saracens attempt to storm their Thomond Park fortress today. Saracens will arrive in Limerick as Pool 1 leaders, three points clear of Munster. And they are bolstered by the returning Alex Goode, Chris Ashton, Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt, all stars of last week’s England victory over New Zealand.

“You can look at the footage on Saracens and prepare, but it comes down to how we play and we just need to look after that side of things,” said Munster centre Downey. “They have a strong back three, a good pack, are well-drilled and know what they are doing. They are a quality side, and they have some internationals with a good buzz after beating the All Blacks.”

Meanwhile, an anticipated fly-half battle between former England No 10s Danny Cipriani and Jonny Wilkinson might not materialise at Salford City Stadium today. While Toulon star Wilkinson starts the Pool 6 encounter, Cipriani is on the Sale Sharks bench, with Rob Miller preferred as the English club’s starting playmaker. The Toulon side also includes star names such as Matt Giteau, former Sale and England prop Andrew Sheridan, South African lock Bakkies Botha and Argentina’s Test skipper Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.

In Pool 3, group leaders Harlequins face minnows Zebre in Italy. Exeter, meanwhile, saw their hopes of progressing from Pool 5 rocked by successive defeats against Leinster and Clermont Auvergne, but a win against the Scarlets in west Wales today would keep them afloat.

Tomorrow’s Heineken action sees Leinster and Clermont go head-to-head in France, while Leicester host Treviso in Pool Two and winless Cardiff Blues will play host to Montpellier.