Tomas O’Leary is back in a Munster matchday squad for the first time since breaking his ankle last April as the Magners League champions bid for their second successive win over a Welsh side. The Scarlets will entertain them on Saturday.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, September 19
SCARLETS (9th) v MUNSTER (8th), Parc y Scarlets, 6.30pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland/S4C)
Team News: A fit-again Tomas O’Leary has been named on the replacements bench for Munster’s trip to Wales this weekend to take on the Scarlets in the Magners League.
It was against the same opposition at Musgrave Park in April that O’Leary sustained the ankle injury that was to see him miss out on the Heineken Cup semi-final and robbed him of a place on the Lions tour to South Africa.
It was originally believed that O’Leary would not be back in action until late November or early December, and Munster team manager Shaun Payne was quick to praise the Corkman for his extraordinary recovery.
“Tomas has shown tremendous professionalism and dedication in getting himself back playing and great credit is due to him and to the work done by our medical and fitness staff,” he said.
“It is, of course, great to see him back in the squad particularly after the injury he sustained.”
O’Leary was not named in Munster’s extended squad earlier this week, but Peter Stringer had picked up a calf strain in the game against Cardiff Blues last weekend and that did not respond well enough to treatment during the week to allow him make the trip.
Toby Morland will partner his old school mate Jeremy Manning at half-back for the Parc y Scarlets tie.
Coach Tony McGahan retains 21 of the 22 players that were on duty against the Blues, Marcus Horan missing out this time with French international prop Julien Brugnaut coming into the front row.
McGahan has made a second change up front, with hooker Damien Varley getting a chance to impress from the off.
Meanwhile, the selected Scarlets team shows three changes from last weekend’s line-up at Glasgow.
Former Ireland flanker Simon Easterby returns in the back row, Rhys Thomas comes back at prop and there is a competitive debut for centre Gareth Maule.
SCARLETS: Daniel Evans; Sean Lamont, Gareth Maule, Jonathan Davies, Mark Jones (capt); Rhys Priestland, Martin Roberts; Iestyn Thomas, Ken Owens, Rhys Thomas, Lou Reed, Dominic Day, Simon Easterby, Dafydd Jones, David Lyons.
Replacements: Phil John, Emyr Phillips, Deacon Manu, Vernon Cooper, Richie Pugh, Lee Williams, Dan Newton.
MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Doug Howlett, Barry Murphy, Lifeimi Mafi, Denis Hurley; Jeremy Manning, Toby Morland; Julien Brugnaut, Damien Varley, John Hayes, Donnacha Ryan, Mick O’Driscoll (capt), Alan Quinlan, Niall Ronan, Denis Leamy.
Replacements: Denis Fogarty, Tony Buckley, Billy Holland, Tommy O’Donnell, Tomas O’Leary, Scott Deasy, Tom Gleeson.
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Whitehouse, Martyn Lewis (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Huw Lewis (Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Scarlets to win: 10/11; Draw: 18/1; Munster to win: 10/11
Say What: Shaun Payne (Munster) – “This is a massive week for several players who are in the squad to face the Scarlets. Potentially, we could have 10 or 11 players coming back into the squad for the Dragons game with the Lions available to us as well as the players who are coming back from injury.
“You have Tomas (O’Leary), Jerry Flannery, perhaps Paul Warwick, if he is ready, Nick Williams, and the likes.
“They may not all be available for the fourth round game with the Dragons, but when you combine those who will be fully fit and the Lions, then you can see the competition for places.
“So there will be a lot of guys who are in the squad for the Scarlets game looking for big, big performances.
“There is no way that all of those who are back available to us next week will just walk into the squad.
“That is not the way it is going to happen. I think Tony (McGahan) has made that abundantly clear.
“You play for your place, you are not just given it, although there may be some leeway for the Lions.
“You cannot expect to walk back in based on reputation. They may well be a few on the bench with one or two starters.
“It will depend on how we manage the numbers. We will cross that bridge next week. Right now we are focused on the Scarlets.”
Nigel Davies (Scarlets) – “As a group we’ve trained well this week and are up for Saturday.
“The big challenge against Munster will be their physicality – they’re honest and basic in their game-plan and they bring huge intensity to the contact area.
“We want to play with quick ball and I think we’re starting to show people what we can do when we create that, but Munster will want to stop us having that ball so that’s going to be one hell of an area this weekend.”
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Sunday, November 5, 2006 – Scarlets 25 Munster 12, Stradey Park
Saturday, April 14, 2007 – Munster 20 Scarlets 0, Musgrave Park
Saturday, September 22, 2007 – Munster 26 Scarlets 16, Musgrave Park
Saturday, May 3, 2008 – Scarlets 23 Munster 24, Stradey Park
Friday, November 28, 2008 – Scarlets 16 Munster 18, Parc y Scarlets
Friday, April 24, 2009 – Munster 29 Scarlets 10, Musgrave Park
– The Scarlets’ three-match winning run in the Magners League was stopped in its tracks by Glasgow Warriors at Firhill Arena last Sunday
– The Welshmen have won back-to-back games at Parc y Scarlets, with both victories also being against Irish opposition
– Munster’s last seven encounters in the Magners League have all been won by the home side on the day with the Munstermen’s last away victory being a 26-13 triumph at Glasgow on March 27
– Munster have lost just one of their last 12 games against Welsh opponents in all competitions (20-12 at Cardiff Blues on May 10)
– Munster have won their last seven matches against the Scarlets in all competitions since the Scarlets’ 24-15 victory at the old Stradey Park in the quarter-final of the Heineken Cup on March 30, 2007