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O’Gara Back To Skipper Munster

O’Gara Back To Skipper Munster

Munster coach Tony McGahan has altered his side significantly, including reuniting the pack from the recent Heineken Cup quarter-final, for Saturday’s Magners League encounter with the Ospreys at Thomond Park (kick-off 6.30pm).

For the visit of the leading Welsh region, the Munster management have made ten changes to the team that started last Sunday’s gripping 18-12 victory at Connacht.

There are four changes in the back-line, with Paul Warwick, Tom Gleeson and Scott Deasy the only survivors, while there are six alterations in the forwards. Mick O’Driscoll and James Coughlan remain from the pack that outmuscled Connacht.

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With the big European semi-final against Biarritz Olympique, it is no surprise that Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary, Marcus Horan and the rest of Munster’s international contingent – with some notable exceptions – will return to action this weekend.

Those exceptions are groin injury victims Paul O’Connell and Keith Earls who were not named in an extended squad earlier in the week, while Tony Buckley has failed to recover from a knee injury picked up in the game against Connacht.

A try scorer from the Sportsground clash, Deasy retains his place in Munster’s starting line-up but on the left wing rather than at full-back.

Simon Zebo, who made his debut last weekend, has also retained in the matchday 22. The Ireland Under-20 winger has been listed among the replacements, alongside his Cork Constitution club-mate Denis Hurley who returns from a hamstring injury.

Writing on his official website, O’Gara, who will captain Munster in O’Connell’s absence, said: “Saturday’s game will be extremely tough – the Ospreys have their eye on only one competition now, so they’ll be hell bent on winning.

“This is a key fixture for both of us but we’re intent on taking the win and nothing less. The squad is under no illusions – Saturday will be a hard game to secure our four points.

“There’s no room for complacency, we need to play our best game from the start and there will be no margin for error because the Ospreys will be take every tiny chance they get to win.

“We’re missing a few key players for this weekend, there are doubts over (Paul) O’Connell, (Keith) Earls and (Ian) Dowling, so there are some crucial places up for grabs.

“Last week was bit of a down week for me as I wasn’t playing against Connacht. It was a great result for us to win at the Sportsground.

“Connacht have done really well making that place a fortress this season and the victory gave a great lift to the whole squad.”

MUNSTER (v Ospreys): Paul Warwick; Tom Gleeson, Lifeimi Mafi, Jean de Villiers, Scott Deasy; Ronan O’Gara (capt), Tomas O’Leary; Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll, Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, James Coughlan.

Replacements: Damien Varley, Julien Brugnaut, Billy Holland, Niall Ronan, Peter Stringer, Denis Hurley, Simon Zebo.