Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has kept faith with the matchday 23 that defeated the Ospreys for Saturday evening’s GUINNESS PRO12 final against the Scarlets at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 6.15pm).
Named in the second row, Donnacha Ryan will win his 167th and final Munster cap, with outside centre Francis Saili and replacement Jean Deysel also set for their final involvement with the province.
Having made his debut as an Academy player away to Connacht in April 2010, scrum half Conor Murray will make his 100th Munster appearance on Saturday and becomes the tenth player in the current squad to reach the milestone.
Hoping to steer the province to their first PRO12 silverware in six years, Murray’s half-back partner Tyler Bleyendaal said: “It’s been huge for us. Our forwards have been providing that platform for the whole season, to attack from and to relieve pressure on the team.
“If you get under pressure, sometimes you can’t stop the bleeding and you make mistakes. Sometimes you can’t put your finger on it during those games. Like Leinster, we’ve experienced that. It’s tough sometimes. You probably saw that when we were playing Saracens. From our situation I’m hoping that we’ve learned from that and that we’re stronger for this final.
“I think the Scarlets have got class from nine to 15 and in their reserves. Their attacking ability, we’ve all experienced that over the last couple of months. Any turnover, any counter attack or just any chance they get to attack on the break, they seem extremely hungry to score tries.”
Facing up to a potent Scarlets attack, Munster boast the leanest defence in the Championship having conceded just 316 points (an average of 14) across the 22-match regular season in the GUINNESS PRO12.
Rassie Erasmus’ men saw off the challenge of the Ospreys in last weekend’s semi-final at Thomond Park where they held their opponents to no tries while scoring three of their own. Munster will be looking to add another Championship title to the three they have already claimed – 2003, 2009 and 2011 – and a fourth crown would put them on par with Leinster and the Ospreys who share the record for most titles.
It has been a rebound season for the Munstermen who failed to reach the semi-final stage last year but, under the guidance of Erasmus, they finished top of the table in 2017. They did so in record style by winning 86 match points, the highest tally ever compiled by a team in the PRO12.
Limited GUINNESS PRO12 final tickets, starting from 45 euro, can be purchased online here.
MUNSTER (v Scarlets): Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Francis Saili, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Brian Scott, Stephen Archer, Jean Deysel, Jack O’Donoghue, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, Jaco Taute.