There will be internationals aplenty on the Thomond Park pitch as play-off chasing Munster and Glasgow Warriors look to continue their respective progress in the Magners League. Tony McGahan’s men are bidding to make it 17 straight home wins in all competitions.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, March 26
MUNSTER (4th) v GLASGOW WARRIORS (3rd), Thomond Park, 8pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)
Team News: Experienced out-half Ronan O’Gara will captain a Munster team showing seven changes – two of them positional – for Friday’s Magners League meeting with Glasgow Warriors at Thomond Park.
18 players who featured in the matchday 22 for last week’s home win over the Scarlets will be on duty against Glasgow.
Flanker Alan Quinlan and winger Denis Hurley have been restored to Munster’s starting line-up, centre Lifeimi Mafi is back after serving a one-match suspension and O’Gara returns to lead the team from out-half.
O’Gara’s Ireland team-mate Donncha O’Callaghan, who started last weekend’s loss to Scotland, will also start.
However, a chest infection has forced prop Tony Buckley, another of the Six Nations contingent, to withdraw from Munster’s starting line-up.
Frenchman Julien Brugnaut, a starter against the Scarlets, comes straight back in on the tighthead side of the scrum.
Speaking ahead of the game, Munster team manager Shaun Payne said: “The internationals have had a bit of a disappointing time, but personally I don’t think it will affect how the lads come back to Munster.
“If anything, it will make them hungrier for success here. Results can play both ways. Our international boys have always, irrespective of the results with Ireland, come back bursting to play for Munster.
“They have really enjoyed it. You are dealing with the Paul O’Connells, the Donncha O’Callaghans, the Ronan O’Garas of this world, professionals to the core. No matter what the occasion they give their all to the game.”
Meanwhile, visitors Glasgow have been boosted by the return of eight players who saw action in Scotland’s RBS 6 Nations win over Ireland last weekend.
The Warriors had nine players on duty that day, and team captain Alastair Kellock is the only absentee for Friday’s clash. He is resting a shoulder injury, so flanker John Barclay will captain Glasgow.
Barclay is part of the famed ‘Killer Bs’ back row unit, along with Kelly Brown and Johnnie Beattie, and they will be hoping to get the upperhand in Limerick, as they did in Croke Park last Saturday.
Dan Parks, Scotland’s place-kicking hero against the Irish, returns at out-half, with Graeme Morrison, Max Evans and Chris Cusiter also straight back into Magners League fare.
Up front, the back row trio and lock Richie Gray will be playing their second game in six days.
MUNSTER: Paul Warwick; Denis Hurley, Lifeimi Mafi, Jean de Villiers, Ian Dowling; Ronan O’Gara (capt), Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Denis Fogarty, Julien Brugnaut, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll, Alan Quinlan, Niall Ronan, James Coughlan.
Replacements: Damien Varley, Dave Ryan, Billy Holland, Nick Williams, Duncan Williams, Tom Gleeson, Doug Howlett.
GLASGOW WARRIORS: Bernardo Stortoni; Peter Murchie, Max Evans, Graeme Morrison, DTH van der Merwe; Dan Parks, Chris Cusiter; Jon Welsh, Dougie Hall, Moray Low, Richie Gray, Dan Turner, Kelly Brown, John Barclay (capt), Johnnie Beattie.
Replacements: Fergus Thomson, Kevin Tkachuk, Tim Barker, Richie Vernon, Mark McMillan, Colin Gregor, Hefin O’Hare.
Referee: James Jones (Wales)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Mark Hermin (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Dermot Moloney (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 1/6; Draw: 28/1; Glasgow Warriors to win: 4/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Shaun Payne (Munster) – “You hate to call a team a bogey side, but we have definitely struggled against Glasgow in the past. They are a very tough side, one which always travel with a lot of confidence.
“I think the Scotland result will be a positive for them. They will be pushing all out for a Magners League play-off spot.
“Last year, we pulled all points bar one available to us in the Magners League during the Six Nations period.
“We have done relatively well this time round also. We haven’t reached the same heights as twelve months ago.
“But crucially we are in the top four and we have a whole run of home games coming up against teams above us. It is in our own hands, and that is a good position to be in.”
Graeme Morrison (Glasgow Warriors) – “Through the whole Six Nations I have been looking forward to getting back to Glasgow and helping the push for a special end to the season. The club is a really enjoyable place to be at the moment because we are playing well and we are a close bunch of friends.
“It is going to be a huge match. Munster are one of the big teams in Europe, they have a fantastic ground and there is going to be a huge crowd, so I don’t buy into the suggestion this will be a come-down after the excitement of the Six Nations.
“The guys who have come back to Glasgow after that Irish win are bouncing with confidence and training has gone really well this week.
“Munster will be missing a few internationals, but they have such a strong squad you know they will still put out a really strong team.
“They have Lifeimi Mafi and Jean de Villiers in the centre, which is a world class partnership, so I am looking forward to that challenge.”
Top Scorers – 2009/10 Magners League: Munster – Points: Paul Warwick 33; Tries: Jean de Villiers, Nick Williams 4 each; Glasgow Warriors – Points: Dan Parks 138; Tries: Thom Evans 4
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, May 12, 2007 – Munster 38 Glasgow Warriors 20, Musgrave Park
Friday, October 26, 2007 – Glasgow Warriors 11 Munster 11, Firhill Arena
Saturday, May 10, 2008 – Munster 18 Glasgow Warriors 21, Musgrave Park
Saturday, October 4, 2008 – Munster 25 Glasgow Warriors 17, Thomond Park
Friday, March 27, 2009 – Glasgow Warriors 13 Munster 26, Firhill Arena
Friday, September 4, 2009 – Glasgow Warriors 22 Munster 9, Firhill Arena
– Munster’s only defeat in their last five matches was a 31-22 loss to the Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade in the Magners League on March 6
– The Munstermen have won their last 16 home games in all competitions since their loss to Ulster at Thomond Park on January 3 last year
– Glasgow Warriors are winless in their last four encounters in all competitions. Glasgow’s defeat at Leinster in their most recent away game ended their five-match unbeaten run on the road in the Magners League
– The Warriors won 22-9 when these two sides met at Firhill Arena in round one of this season’s league, but have not achieved a season’s double over Munster since the 2005/06 campaign