Munster will be looking to maintain their enviable recent record against the Ospreys, when they visit the Liberty Stadium on Saturday. Munster have won their last four games in all competitions against the Ospreys, including a hard-fought 25-21 victory the last time they were in Swansea.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, December 5
OSPREYS (7th) v MUNSTER (5th), Liberty Stadium, 6.30pm (live Setanta Sports 1/S4C)
Team News: Munster back rower James Coughlan who captained the province’s side in their two recent British & Irish Cup victories, will start at number 8 when Tony McGahan’s men return to Magners League action against the Ospreys.
Coughlan’s last appearance at this level was against the Newport Gwent Dragons in September when he came on as a 60th minute replacement for Tommy O’Donnell and prior to that, his previous start was against Glasgow Warriors last March.
The Ireland Seven international was part of a superb Munster back row unit – along with Niall Ronan, Denis Leamy and replacement Billy Holland – that ran the All Blacks so close last season.
Coughlan, who plays regularly for Dolphin in the AIB League, has being one of Munster’s stand-out players so far in the inaugural British & Irish Cup this season, and is relishing the opportunity that Saturday’s game presents.
“Yes, I’m really looking forward to the game at the Liberty. There is huge competition here in Munster for places in the back row and a good healthy rivalry among those of us looking for the jersey,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say there’s any niggle in training but it is competitive. It has to be and if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be as successful a squad as we are.”
Coughlan is one of five changes from Munster’s most recent outing – their 24-10 victory over Ulster at Thomond Park in October.
Four of the changes are up front where newcomer Wian du Preez replaces Julien Brugnaut, John Hayes is back in place of Stephen Archer, Coughlan comes in for Leamy and Ronan will start in place of David Wallace.
The one change in the back-line sees Doug Howlett back for the first time since injuring a hamstring against Benetton Treviso in mid-October.
Meanwhile, Tommy Bowe will face a number of his Ireland team-mates when he lines out on the right wing for the Ospreys on Saturday.
The injury-hit Ospreys, who have signed scrum half Ricky Januarie and lock James Goode recently, are without the likes of Shane Williams, Mike Phillips, Lee Byrne, Adam Jones and team captain Ryan Jones who is nursing a back injury.
New Zealander Jerry Collins will captain the region in Jones’ absence, linking up with Marty Holah and player-coach Filo Tiatia in a hard-hitting back row.
There is one change to the back-line that the Ospreys started with in their most recent game – the 9-9 draw with Glasgow Warriors in October. Gareth Owen starts at full-back in place of Barry Davies.
In the front row, Duncan Jones and Craig Mitchell are new additions, while Holah and locks Alun Wyn Jons and Jonathan Thomas are also back in the starting line-up.
OSPREYS: Gareth Owen; Tommy Bowe, Sonny Parker, Andrew Bishop, Nikki Walker; Dan Biggar, Liam Davies; Duncan Jones, Richard Hibbard, Craig Mitchell, Alun Wyn Jones, Jonathan Thomas, Jerry Collins (capt), Marty Holah, Filo Tiatia.
Replacements: Huw Bennett, Paul James, Cai Griffiths, Andy Lloyd, Ben Lewis, Rhys Webb, James Hook.
MUNSTER: Paul Warwick; Doug Howlett, Jean de Villiers, Lifeimi Mafi, Keith Earls; Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary; Wian du Preez, Denis Fogarty, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell (capt), Alan Quinlan, Niall Ronan, James Coughlan.
Replacements: Damien Varley, Tony Buckley, Donnacha Ryan, Nick Williams, Peter Stringer, Denis Hurley, Ian Dowling.
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Hugh Watkins, Alan Jenkins (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Tony Rowlands (Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ospreys to win: 5/4; Draw: 16/1; Munster to win: 4/6
Pre-Match Quotes: Alan Quinlan (Munster) – “I’m looking forward to the game on Saturday and it’s a very important one the way this Magners League is going.
“There are a lot of contenders and I think we need to produce a performance against Ospreys on Saturday. Not in any sense to lay down a marker, just from our own point of view.
“We know we’ve been patchy up to now. There’s reasons for that I think, fellas coming and going, injury and the like, but we won’t dwell on that. We know it’s in our own hands to improve on the pitch.
“The coaches, Tony (McGahan), Laurie (Fisher), Dutchy (Jason Holland) and Axel (Anthony Foley) have been doing a great job and there have been times I think when we might have let them down a bit. So we’ve got to address that.
“And I don’t necessarily think that it will happen all of a sudden. There will be times in games when things aren’t going right for a team. Happens to them all.
“But I think we’ve got to be patient and I know we have the belief in ourselves and that’s very important.”
Sean Holley (Ospreys) – “At this time of the year we have to deal with the reintegration into this environment of a dozen players who have been away for a month with their national set-ups, which brings with it its own difficulties.
“But, with the injuries we’ve got here at the moment, it’s a welcome boost for us to be able welcome back players of real quality.
“Selection has been made with a few things in mind, we need to send out a team that will be competitive against Munster while taking into account the heavy workload that some of the international boys have had over the last month, and the big games that we’ve got coming up over the next few months.
“Munster will always provide a tough challenge, whatever the occasion, so we know that we’ll have to be at the top of our game if we are going to match them. We want to get this crucial period off to a good start, so a good performance is essential.
“They’ve named a strong squad for the visit, so it clear that they are also looking at this game as an important one, and I think it’s a great one to get us back into the swing of things after a few weeks without a match.”
Top Scorers – 2009/10 Magners League: Ospreys – Points: Dan Biggar 40; Tries: Tommy Bowe, Jerry Collins 3 each; Munster – Points: Jeremy Manning 30; Tries: Nick Williams 3
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
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
Saturday, April 19, 2008 – Munster 9 Ospreys 8, Musgrave Park
Friday, January 9, 2009 – Ospreys 21 Munster 25, Liberty Stadium
Friday, May 15, 2009 – Munster 36 Ospreys 10, Thomond Park
– The Ospreys’ only win in their last six matches in all competitions was a 25-24 success over Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Cup on October 18
– The Welshmen have won just one of their last five games against opponents from Ireland (19-12 at Connacht in the Magners League on September 4)
– Munster’s 24-10 victory over Ulster last time out ended a two-match losing run for the defending Magners League champions
– Munster have lost five of their last six away matches, but have an impressive record against Welsh opponents, having won 13 of their last 14 such encounters
– Munster have won their last four games against the Ospreys in all competitions, including a 25-21 victory on their most recent visit to the Liberty Stadium on January 9