A much-changed Munster team will go into battle on Saturday against the Ospreys, the recently crowned EDF Energy Cup champions. Revenge will be on the hosts’ minds as the Ospreys have won three of the sides’ last four encounters.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, April 19
MUNSTER v OSPREYS, Musgrave Park, 7.30pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)
Team News: Munster coach Declan Kidney has made sweeping changes to his team for their Magners League clash with Ospreys in Cork.
In total, Kidney has made 14 changes – two positional – to the side that started the 21-12 defeat to Leinster at the RDS last Saturday.
In a completely changed back-line, full-back Shaun Payne returns for the first time since the province’s 25-22 defeat to Cardiff on March 1.
This weekend’s tie will also see Barry Murphy make his first senior start of the season, in the centre alongside Kieran Lewis.
Doug Howlett makes way for Brian Carney on the right wing, while Anthony Horgan will win his 143rd competitive Munster cap on the opposite wing.
In the absence of the injured Ronan O’Gara, Paul Warwick will wear the number 10 jersey, partnered, as he was at the end of the Leinster game, by Tomas O’Leary.
Peter Stringer is listed amongst the replacements after recovering from neck and shoulder injuries.
Up front, Tony Buckley switches to his more familiar tighthead position with Federico Pucciariello at loosehead and Frankie Sheahan in between.
Mick O’Driscoll gets the nod ahead of Donncha O’Callaghan in front of a back row unit of Niall Ronan, Donnacha Ryan and Denis Leamy.
Listed among the replacements are Jeremy Manning and Keith Earls who have both been in excellent form for their respective clubs, Cork Constitution and Garryowen, in the AIB League.
Meanwhile, the Ospreys have made a number of changes to the team that beat Leicester Tigers in the EDF Energy Cup final last weekend.
Welsh internationals Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones and Ryan Jones have been rested.
Half-backs James Hook and Justin Marshall retain their starting places in an unchanged back-line. Centre Gavin Henson is out with an ankle injury.
In the pack, there is a fresh front row in Duncan Jones, Huw Bennett and Cai Griffiths and Ian Evans slots into the second row.
Number 8 Filo Tiatia also takes on the captaincy role, with Jonathan Thomas coming in for Welsh skipper Ryan Jones.
MUNSTER: Shaun Payne; Brian Carney, Barry Murphy, Kieran Lewis, Anthony Horgan; Paul Warwick; Tomas O’Leary; Federico Pucciariello, Frankie Sheahan,Tony Buckley, Mick O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell (capt), Donnacha Ryan, Niall Ronan, Denis Leamy.
Replacements: Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, Anthony Foley, David Wallace, Peter Stringer, Jeremy Manning, Keith Earls.
OSPREYS: Lee Byrne; Johnny Vaughton, Sonny Parker, Andrew Bishop, Shane Williams; James Hook, Justin Marshall; Duncan Jones, Huw Bennett, Cai Griffiths, Ian Gough, Ian Evans, Jonathan Thomas, Marty Holah, Filo Tiatia (capt).
Replacements: Ed Shervington, Andrew Millward, Lyndon Bateman, Ben Lewis, Gareth Owen, Jonathan Spratt, Aled Brew.
Referee: James Jones (Wales)
Say What: Declan Kidney (Munster) – “We’ve another big challenge this week in the Ospreys. EDF Energy Cup winners one week and the Guinness Premiership leaders (Gloucester) the previous. It just gets easier and easier!
“This game (against the Ospreys) has come too soon for Ronan (O’Gara) to be considered.
“But he is making good progress and at this stage we haven’t ruled him out of consideration for the game against Saracens.”
Lyn Jones (Ospreys) – “With five games left in the season, we are not looking down the table, we are concentrating on the teams currently above us.
“We are seven points behind the Scarlets and 12 points behind the Blues, but we have two games in hand on both of them, and we are still targeting finishing above both of those sides to finish the highest of the Welsh regions.
“It will be a tough ask, and the games will come thick and fast over the final weeks of the season, but we will be taking inspiration from our form at the end of last season, when we came back to the Magners League after the EDF Energy Cup final and put together a good run of results in tough circumstances to rise up the table and take the title.
“Munster may have one eye on their Heineken Cup semi-final next weekend, but it is fair to say that there is never an easy game against Munster as everyone who pulls on the red shirt understands their responsibility.
“It looks like being a tight affair, something of a battle between the two sides who consistently have the best defences, so we know that we will have to be on top of our game.”
Top Scorers: 2007/08 Magners League – Points: Munster: Paul Warwick 101; Ospreys: Shaun Connor 103; Tries: Munster: Paul Warwick, Denis Leamy, Donnacha Ryan, Tony Buckley, Doug Howlett 2 each; Ospreys: Lee Byrne, Shane Williams 3 each.
PREVIOUS LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, September 27, 2003 – Ospreys 33 Munster 26, St. Helen’s
Friday, February 27, 2004 – Munster 15 Ospreys 18, Musgrave Park
Friday, September 3, 2004 – Ospreys 34 Munster 17, St. Helen’s
Saturday, December 18, 2004 – Munster 13 Ospreys 9, Musgrave Park
Saturday, September 10, 2005 – Munster 37 Ospreys 10, Musgrave Park
Friday, May 5, 2006 – Ospreys 27 Munster 10, Liberty Stadium
Saturday, November 25, 2006 – Munster 25 Ospreys 20, Thomond Park
Saturday, April 7, 2007 – Ospreys 20 Munster 12, Liberty Stadium
Sunday, October 14, 2007 – Ospreys 16 Munster 3, Liberty Stadium
– Munster have won their last four home matches in all competitions since Leinster were 10-3 victors at Musgrave Park in the Magners League on November 30
– Munster’s only defeat in their last six home games against Welsh teams was a 19-17 loss to the Cardiff Blues in Cork on October 5
– The Ospreys’ last six encounters in the Magners League have all been won by the home side on the day
– The Welsh region are winless away from home in the Magners League since the day they won the title last season – May 12, 2007 at Border Reivers
– The last seven clashes between the two teams in all competitions have all been won by the home side on the day
– They Ospreys’ only previous win in Munster was an 18-15 triumph at Musgrave Park in the league on February 27, 2004