A home semi-final is now out of their reach, but Munster can still secure a place in the Magners League play-offs with a two-point return their minimum aim at Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Sunday, May 9
CARDIFF BLUES (5th) v MUNSTER (4th), Cardiff City Stadium, 6.15pm (live Setanta Sports 1/S4C)
Team News: Scott Deasy will make his third consecutive Magners League start, replacing Paul Warwick at full-back in the Munster team to play the Cardiff Blues at Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday.
Last time out in the Magners League, Deasy impressed playing on the wing but prior to that had worn the number 15 jersey against Connacht when he scored a try.
The Corkman made his Heineken Cup debut as a replacement last weekend in San Sebastian, and is one of eight changes in personnel to the side that lost to Biarritz Olympique.
Lock Mick O’Driscoll misses out with an ankle injury as does hooker Jerry Flannery, while veteran prop John Hayes is rested, giving Tony Buckley the opportunity to impress from the kick-off.
Peter Stringer will start at scrum half, with Damien Varley joining Buckley and Marcus Horan in the front row.
Billy Holland gets the nod to replace O’Driscoll in the second row and Nick Williams and Niall Ronan come in for Alan Quinlan and James Coughlan in the back row. David Wallace shifts from openside flanker to number 8.
A late enforced change, due to a reccurence of Keith Earls’ groin strain, will see Lifeimi Mafi moving into midfield to partner Jean de Villiers at centre, and Tom Gleeson lining up on the left wing.
Meanwhile, Cardiff Blues boss Dai Young has made just one change to the team that beat London Wasps 18-15 in last weekend’s Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final.
The 20-year-old Scott Andrews comes in at tighthead prop for Taufa’ao Filise who is suffering with a groin injury.
Wales and Lions front rower Gethin Jenkins starts, despite doubts over his ankle problem, while international lock Bradley Davies could feature off the Blues bench.
An ankle knock has sidelined scrum half Richie Rees, while Tom James, Andy Powell, Gareth Cooper, Robin Sowden Taylor, Sam Hobbs, Gary Powell and Tom Shanklin are also out of the reckoning for the Welsh region.
The game will mark influential number 8 Xavier Rush’s last home outing for the Blues before his transfer to Ulster..
CARDIFF BLUES: Ben Blair; Leigh Halfpenny, Casey Laulala, Jamie Roberts, Chris Czekaj; Ceri Sweeney, Darren Allinson; Gethin Jenkins, Rhys Thomas, Scott Andrews, Deiniol Jones, Paul Tito (capt), Ma’ama Molitika, Martyn Williams, Xavier Rush.
Replacements: Gareth Williams, John Yapp, Bradley Davies, Sam Warburton, Lloyd Williams, Dai Flanagan, Dafydd Hewitt.
MUNSTER: Scott Deasy; Denis Hurley, Lifeimi Mafi, Jean de Villiers, Tom Gleeson; Ronan O’Gara (capt), Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Damien Varley, Tony Buckley, Donncha O’Callaghan, Billy Holland, Nick Williams, Niall Ronan, David Wallace.
Replacements: Mike Sherry, Dave Ryan, Alan Quinlan, James Coughlan, Tomas O’Leary, Paul Warwick, Danny Barnes.
Referee: Peter Allan (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Hugh Watkins, Simon Harris (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Tony Rowlands (Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Cardiff Blues to win: 8/15; Draw: 20/1; Munster to win: 6/4
Pre-Match Quotes: Shaun Payne (Munster) – “Wednesday was a case of refocusing and trying to be professional from the management and players’ point of view.
“It was therapeutic for the guys to get back on the training pitch and not to dwell too long on what transpired (against Biarritz) last Sunday.
“There is still everything to play for. It’s a play-off situation which we quite enjoy. We’re not in it yet and obviously there are a couple of permutations but we need to ensure that we perform against Cardiff.
“The lads are definitely not wishing that their season was as good as over. We’re up for this competition – we couldn’t stand a double disappointment.
“We need to be competing in the Magners League. The gap between the Magners League and the Heineken Cup has definitely been closing and especially with the play-off system in place this year, there is a lot of added excitement.”
Dai Young (Cardiff Blues) – “Munster will probably want to come away with something so they can get in the top four and give the Magners League title a real challenge.
“From our point of view, we will not be looking to rest a number of players, as we want to be in the play-offs also. However, with the Amlin Challenge Cup final around the corner we are not going to risk some players who may be carrying bumps.
“Hopefully we will have a big crowd at the stadium that really picks up the noise level. The noise they made last weekend up at Wasps was outstanding.
“There were large sections of supporters who started the singing and chanting and really made an impression up in Newcastle and Wasps, which is something the players remarked upon and appreciated.”
Top Scorers – 2009/10 Magners League: Cardiff Blues – Points: Ben Blair 145; Tries: Tom James 5; Munster – Points: Ronan O’Gara 73; Tries: Jean de Villiers 5
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, March 2, 2007 – Munster 12 Cardiff Blues 19, Musgrave Park
Friday, October 5, 2007 – Munster 17 Cardiff Blues 19, Musgrave Park
Saturday, March 1, 2008 – Cardiff Blues 25 Munster 22, Arms Park
Saturday, September 20, 2008 – Munster 28 Cardiff Blues 20, Musgrave Park
Sunday, May 10, 2009 – Cardiff Blues 20 Munster 12, Arms Park
Friday, September 11, 2009 – Munster 24 Cardiff Blues 13, Thomond Park
– This is a real winner-takes-all fixture, with a place in the last four of the Magners League the prize for the victors – although if that happens to be the Cardiff Blues, they also require Edinburgh not to have gained a bonus point win at Leinster
– The Blues have won their last six matches in all competitions. The regional side have never won seven successive games since their formation in 2003
– Munster require two more league points to guarantee their participation in the Magners League semi-finals
– Munster’s 18-12 victory at Connacht last time out ended their five-match losing run away from home in the Magners League
– The last four meetings between Cardiff and Munster have all been won by the home side on the day. The Munstermen’s most recent win in Cardiff in the Magners League was back in November 2005 at the Arms Park