Heineken Cup finalists Munster head to Stradey Park on Saturday to face a Llanelli Scarlets side that are looking for only their second win since February.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, May 3
LLANELLI SCARLETS v MUNSTER, Stradey Park, 2.45pm
Team News: With just one exception on the replacements bench, Munster will take the same squad to Wales for this weekend’s Magners League clash with the Llanelli Scarlets as the one that accounted for Saracens in last Sunday’s Heineken Cup semi-final.
The change on the replacements bench sees Anthony Horgan come in for Barry Murphy who suffered a dislocated thumb in the league game against Ulster on Wednesday night.
Horgan’s inclusion comes on foot of an impressive first half showing against Ulster before he was forced out of the game just after the break with presumably the same stomach ailment that sidelined Keith Earls earlier in the day.
However, on Friday evening, Munster made a late change to their matchday squad for their encounter with Llanelli.
Illness has forced Anthony Horgan to withdraw from the province’s 22-man panel, with his place on the bench going to Brian Carney.
Meanwhile, due to the sudden sacking of director of rugby Phil Davies, caretaker coach Paul Moriarty will be in charge of the Scarlets for this game.
The Welsh region are without two of their centres – Regan King is nursing an ankle sprain and Under-20 international Jonathan Davies is ruled out with an ankle injury.
International trio Simon Easterby (knee), Dwayne Peel (shoulder) and Alix Popham (hand) are also absentees for the hosts.
Moriarty has selected Nathan Brew and Gavin Evans in his midfield and Dafydd James on the right wing, with out-half Stephen Jones named as captain in Easterby’s absence.
In the forwards, Llanelli’s new inclusions are Matthews Rees at hooker, Deacon Manu at tighthead prop and flankers Dafydd Jones and Gavin Thomas join Nathan Thomas in the back row.
LLANELLI SCARLETS: Morgan Stoddart; Dafydd James, Gavin Evans, Nathan Brew, Matthew Watkins; Stephen Jones (capt), Gavin Cattle; Iestyn Thomas, Matthew Rees, Deacon Manu, Vernon Cooper, Scott MacLeod, Dafydd Jones, Gavin Thomas, Nathan Thomas.
Replacements: Phil John, Mahonri Schwalger, Lou Reed, James Bater, Liam Davies, Rhys Priestland, Darren Daniel.
MUNSTER: Denis Hurley; Doug Howlett, Lifeimi Mafi, Rua Tipoki, Ian Dowling; Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary; Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell (capt), Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, Denis Leamy.
Replacements: Frankie Sheahan, Federico Pucciariello, Mick O’Driscoll, Donnacha Ryan, Peter Stringer, Paul Warwick, Brian Carney.
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Say What: Declan Kidney (Munster) – “We want to win the Magners League so we have to be knocking on the door like Leinster have been doing in the last few seasons.
“You need to be up there, coming second or third before you can go on and win it, so I want us to be finishing as high up the league as we can.
“Winning is a habit and losing is a habit. We lost against Ulster on Wednesday so we’ve just got to try and win the next one.
“There’s going be a lot of pride at stake on their side. I don’t think it (Phil Davies’ sacking) will affect the Scarlets.
“People could say we have distractions with a European final coming up in a few weeks’ time, but the players are preparing for this game in a professional manner.”
Top Scorers: 2007/08 Magners League – Points: Llanelli Scarlets: Rhys Priestland 105; Munster: Paul Warwick 119; Tries: Llanelli Scarlets: Regan King 7; Munster: Paul Warwick, Denis Leamy, Donnacha Ryan, Tony Buckley, Doug Howlett 2 each.
PREVIOUS LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, September 12, 2003 – Munster 12 Llanelli Scarlets 19, Thomond Park
Friday, February 20, 2004 – Llanelli Scarlets 37 Munster 20, Stradey Park
Sunday, October 3, 2004 – Munster 19 Llanelli Scarlets 13, Thomond Park
Saturday, January 29, 2005 – Llanelli Scarlets 32 Munster 17, Stradey Park
Friday, September 23, 2005 – Munster 14 Llanelli Scarlets 13, Musgrave Park
Tuesday, May 9, 2006 – Llanelli Scarlets 18 Munster 6, Stradey Park
Sunday, November 5, 2006 – Llanelli Scarlets 25 Munster 12, Stradey Park
Saturday, April 14, 2007 – Munster 20 Llanelli Scarlets 0, Musgrave Park
Saturday, September 22, 2007 – Munster 26 Llanelli Scarlets 16, Musgrave Park
– The Llanelli Scarlets have lost four of their last five matches in the Magners League since February. At Stradey Park, the Scarlets lost 24-10 to Leinster last time out but have not lost successive home league games since 2005
– The Scarlets have been defeated in their last five encounters with Irish opponents
– Munster reached the final of the Heineken Cup with their victory over Saracens in Coventry last Sunday but lost 19-9 to Ulster in the Magners League on Wednesday
– Munster have won the last four clashes between the two sides in all competitions. They have already won at Stradey Park this season – 29-16 in the Heineken Cup pool stages on December 8