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Magners Semi-Final Preview: Munster v Ospreys

Magners Semi-Final Preview: Munster v Ospreys

Munster will make it an all-Irish decider and secure home advantage in the Magners League grand final at the end of the month if they beat the Ospreys for the fourth time this season.


MUNSTER (1st) v OSPREYS (4th), Thomond Park, 6.30pm (live RTE 2/S4C)

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Team News: The Munster team announced for the Magners League semi-final against the Ospreys shows nine changes, including two positional switches, to the side that beat Connacht last weekend.

The positional changes will see youngster Danny Barnes wearing the number 13 jersey this time around while, with Donncha O’Callaghan restored to the second row, Donnacha Ryan will start in the back row at the expense of Denis Leamy.

Although just six players retain their positions from the 22-6 victory over Connacht, there is just one change in back-line and one change in the starting pack from the side that garnered a tight victory over the Ospreys in Swansea three weeks ago.

The change up front comes in the shape of team captain Paul O’Connell who was unavailable that night, and Barnes is the only alteration in the backs.

Despite being runaway winners of the league proper, Munster could see all the hard work undone this weekend if they lose to last season’s champions.

But the province’s hooker Damien Varley insisted: “We knew the format setting out. We’d set our sights initially on a home semi-final so as to give ourselves the best possible chance to win the title. We’ve achieved that.

“We’ll take this as a single game. It’s a stepping stone to winning a trophy. We’re where we wanted to be, in with a shot at a final.”

Meanwhile, Ireland’s Tommy Bowe is part of an unchanged Ospreys back-line for the semi-final clash in Limerick.

Wales wing wizard Shane Williams has failed in his bid to recover in time from a knee injury, with Richard Fussell and Nikki Walker joining Bowe in the Welsh region’s back-three.

The Ospreys have made two changes in personnel to the team that started last weekend’s vital 12-10 win over Aironi in Viadana.

Huw Bennett comes in for Richard Hibbard at hooker and Ian Gough has been restored to the second row as an indirect replacement for Marty Holah. Ryan Jones, who lined out at lock against Aironi, will start this time in a reshuffled back row.

Former All Black Jerry Collins is available again following his one-match ban and takes his place on a replacements bench that includes six forwards. Tom Isaacs and Ashley Beck are the only backs, with Mike Phillips a notable absentee.

Ospreys director of coaching Scott Johnson said: “We will have to lift our game from where it’s been in recent weeks, but preparation hasn’t been about kneejerk reactions.

“We’ve made sure that the guys know what they’ve got to do, know their roles, and have the confidence and belief to really enjoy the challenge.

“It’s big games like that being involved in professional rugby is all about. It’ll be a real test alright, but we know plenty about Munster just like they know plenty about us.

“I can see it being a real arm wrestle, but it’s a really exciting prospect. Preparation has been good, but once they step onto the paddock it’ll be all about which team handles the pressure best.”

MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Doug Howlett, Danny Barnes, Lifeimi Mafi, Keith Earls; Ronan O’Gara, Conor Murray; Marcus Horan, Damien Varley, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell (capt), Donnacha Ryan, David Wallace, James Coughlan.

Replacements: Mike Sherry, Wian du Preez, Stephen Archer, Denis Leamy, Niall Ronan, Peter Stringer, Paul Warwick, Simon Zebo.

OSPREYS: Richard Fussell; Tommy Bowe, Andrew Bishop, James Hook, Nikki Walker; Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Paul James, Huw Bennett, Adam Jones, Ian Gough, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Ryan Jones, Justin Tipuric, Jonathan Thomas.

Replacements: Richard Hibbard, Ryan Bevington, Cai Griffiths, Jerry Collins, Tom Smith, Marty Holah, Tom Isaacs, Ashley Beck.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Kevin Beggs (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 1/3; Draw: 20/1; Ospreys to win: 23/10

Pre-Match Quotes: Paul O’Connell (Munster) – “The Ospreys are a very experienced side. They’re well able to win at home and are well able to go away from home and produce big performance and wins.

“We’re well aware of that and it adds to the challenge for us. We play each other so often, internationally, in the Magners League and obviously in the Heineken Cup this season that we know each other inside out.

“They have a very strong squad and it will be a very tough game for us and for them. They’ll be disappointed with their Heineken Cup form and maybe some of their Magners League form as well towards the end of the year.

“We’re both in the semi-finals now and it’s knockout rugby and all to play for. We want to finish with something in the trophy cabinet after a disappointing season last year and obviously a disappointing run in the Heineken Cup.

“The Magners League is of massive importance to us. It’s the last competition we’re in and we’re playing at home which makes it very important as well.

“The Magners League has grown in stature year on year and the play-offs have made it a very important and interesting competition.

“It’s made the last few games of the season very interesting for supporters and players alike.”

Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) – “You go out there (Thomond Park) and are very away of where you are and who you’re playing. They haven’t got a small hardcore, they have a large hardcore of devoted fans.

“But we’ve beaten them at Thomond Park before. We know how to win and lose to Munster.

“When we won out there last year we really dug in and showed maturity. Other times we haven’t been astute or mature enough in games.

“Looking to the European clash over there this season, we were leading halfway through the game and had we been more tactically astute we would have won.

“There is no pressure on us this time because people don’t expect us to win out there. We are the underdogs.

“We’re not afraid to say we haven’t been playing well. But we’re in the play-offs now and there are two one-off games. There’s the possibility of the title, but first and foremost we’ll focus on this game.

“I won’t need to say a lot because all of the players know what’s at stake. They’re all aware that we’re two wins away from the title. We’re very confident that we can win and we want that silverware.”

Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Munster – Points: Ronan O’Gara 171; Tries: Doug Howlett 7; Ospreys – Points: Dan Biggar 242; Tries: Nikki Walker 8


Friday, January 9, 2009 – Ospreys 21 Munster 25, Liberty Stadium
Friday, May 15, 2009 – Munster 36 Ospreys 10, Thomond Park
Saturday, December 5, 2009 – Ospreys 19 Munster 14, Liberty Stadium
Saturday, April 24, 2010 – Munster 11 Ospreys 15, Thomond Park
Saturday, September 18, 2010 – Munster 22 Ospreys 10, Thomond Park
Saturday, April 23, 2011 – Ospreys 20 Munster 22, Liberty Stadium


– These two teams have already met four times this season in all competitions with the tally being 3-1 in favour of Munster, including both Magners League encounters. The Ospreys have won just twice before on Munster soil in 11 previous visits

– Munster have topped the Magners League table since round 2. The 2008/09 champions have lost just one
Magners League game since November, a 19-18 reversal at Treviso on February 13

– The Munstermen have not lost at home in the league since the Ospreys were the visitors in April of last year

– the Ospreys, the defending Magners League champions, left it mighty late to grab the fourth qualifying spot for the semi-finals. James Hook’s 75th-minute penalty goal against Aironi gave the Welshmen the lead for the first time in the
game and four match points to move them ahead of an unlucky Scarlets team

– The Ospreys’ only win in Ireland this season was a 16-15 triumph at Connacht back in November