Munster return to Magners League action in Swansea on Saturday, looking to overcome the disappointment of their Heineken Cup exit at the hands of the Scarlets last week.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, April 7
OSPREYS (3rd) v MUNSTER (6th), Libery Stadium, 5.30pm (live Setanta Ireland/S4C)
Team News: Munster have named a much-changed side for this weekend’s clash with the Ospreys, with Anthony Foley, Anthony Horgan, Federico Pucciariello and Mossy Lawlor all returning from injury. The fit-again James Coughlan has also been named on the bench.
Elsewhere, there is a second start for recent signing Brian Carney following on from his try-scoring debut against Ulster and Ireland Under-20 star Keith Earls has been listed for bench duty.
Ahead of his team’s return to Wales, just over a week after their Stradey Park disappointment, Munster coach Declan Kidney said: “Of course it’s been a tough week. It always is when you go out of a competition. But what we have to do now is lift ourselves for the next challenge. This is when we find out about ourselves.
“We have to park that (Heineken Cup defeat) now. There will an opportunity to revisit it and see what we need to correct. We can’t do anything in the short term now about what happened last weekend but we do have control over what happens on Saturday and that’s what we must focus on.”
The Ospreys are close to full strength for the visit of the reigning European champions, with only Duncan Jones, Adam Jones, Justin Marshall and Nikki Walker being kept in reserve. They do have a considerable injury list with Gavin Henson (knee), Ian Evans (shoulder), Lyndon Bateman (knee), David Bishop (knee) and Richard Hibbard (shoulder/bicep) still nursing knocks.
Previewing the clash, Ospreys coach Lyn Jones said: “There is no good time to face an outfit as efficient as Munster, but this weekend is a particularly bad time to come up against them. They were comprehensively outplayed by the Scarlets on their last visit to Wales and I am sure they will, both individually and collectively, be looking to turn things around this weekend.”
Ospreys: Stefan Terblanche; Jonny Vaughton, Sonny Parker, Andrew Bishop, Shane Williams; James Hook, Jason Spice; Paul James (capt), Huw Bennett, Cai Griffiths, Brent Cockbain, Cai Griffiths, Brent Cockbain, Alun Wyn Jones, Andy Lloyd, Steve Tandy, Ryan Jones.
Replacements: Barry Williams, Adam Jones, Jonathan Thomas, Richard Pugh, Justin Marshall, Shaun Connor, Nikki Walker.
Munster: Mossy Lawlor, Brian Carney, Barry Murphy, Lifeimi Mafi, Anthony Horgan; Jeremy Manning, Tomas O’Leary; Federico Pucciariello, Frankie Sheahan, Tony Buckley, Donncha O’Callaghan, Donnacha Ryan, Alan Quinlan, John O’Sullivan, Anthony Foley (capt).
Replacements: Jerry Flannery, Marcus Horan/Eugene McGovern, Shane O’Connor, James Coughlan, Brian O’Meara, Ronan O’Gara, Keith Earls.
Referee: David Changleng (Scotland)
Touch Judges: Jon Mason, Matthew Alpin (both Wales)
Team League Statistics: Ospreys: Top Points Scorer – James Hook 63 (9 conversions and 15 penalty goals); Top Try Scorer – Lee Byrne 4
Munster: Top Points Scorer – Jeremy Manning 72 (6 conversions, 18 penalty goals and 2 drop goals); Top Try Scorers – David Wallace, Lifeimi Mafi, Tomas O’Leary 2 each
Previous League Meetings:
September 2003 – Ospreys 33 Munster 26, St. Helen’s
February 2004 – Munster 15 Ospreys 18, Musgrave Park
September 2004 – Ospreys 34 Munster 17, St. Helen’s
December 2004 – Munster 13 Ospreys 9, Musgrave Park
September 2005 – Munster 37 Ospreys 10, Musgrave Park
May 2006 – Ospreys 27 Munster 10, Liberty Stadium
November 2006 – Munster 25 Ospreys 20, Thomond Park
– The Ospreys have been defeated just once in their last nine games in all competitions since December 23 – a 45-22 loss at the hands of Leinster in January. They have won their last eight Magners League encounters at Liberty Stadium
– Munster’s reign as Heineken Cup champions came to an end at Strady Park last Friday, but Declan Kidney’s men have won three of their last four away matches in the Magners League
– Munster have beaten the Ospreys on five of the last six occasions that they have met in all competitions, including a 25-20 league win at Thomond Park in November
– Jeremy Manning kicked five penalties, a conversion of James Coughlan’s try and a drop goal when the sides met at Thomond Park in November
– Munster’s only previous visit to Liberty Stadium was last May when they went down 27-10, with Shane Williams (2) and Jason Spice sharing out the Welsh region’s tries
– Last time out in the league, Munster beat the defending champions Ulster 24-21 at Ravenhill thanks to tries from Brian Carney, Trevor Halstead and John O’Sullivan. They had trailed by 21-3 at half-time