Munster need to dig deep and recapture the sort of form which saw them put 31 points on the Glasgow Warriors in Limerick back in December, when the sides meet in round 19 of the RaboDirect PRO12.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, March 29
GLASGOW WARRIORS (2nd) V MUNSTER (6th), Scotstoun Stadium, 8.05pm (live TG4/BBC ALBA)
Team News: The changes have been kept to a minimum for Munster’s RaboDirect PRO12 trip to Glasgow Warriors on Friday night where the Scottish club are expecting their biggest league crowd at Scotstoun Stadium.
In the province’s back-line, Johne Murphy comes onto the left wing in place of the injured Denis Hurley and this time around Duncan Williams starts at scrum half with Cathal Sheridan on the replacements bench.
In the pack, changes from the home win over Connacht see Mike Sherry and BJ Botha starting ahead of Damien Varley and Stephen Archer respectively with Paddy Butler drafted into the back row for knee injury victim Sean Dougall.
Hurley, who tweaked a hamstring in the Connacht game, did not feel entirely happy with it after this week’s training session and was withdrawn from consideration.
Meanwhile, Glasgow Warriors boss Gregor Townsend has recalled Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Ryan Grant and Tim Swinson as he makes nine changes to the team that started last weekend’s defeat to Leinster.
Ruaridh Jackson, Sean Lamont, Ryan Wilson, Jon Welsh and Pat MacArthur have been promoted from the replacements bench, while Peter Murchie, James Eddie, Gordon Reid and Ed Kalman drop out of the 23-man squad.
Alex Dunbar and Tommy Seymour both picked up knocks during the closely-fought clash with Leinster and will not be involved against Munster.
Fijian Niko Matawalu continues at number 9 and the returning Jackson replaces Duncan Weir at out-half. Peter Horne starts at inside centre with Sean Lamont replacing Dunbar in the number 13 shirt.
Canadian flyer DTH Van der Merwe starts on the left wing, with Maitland starting on the right. Hogg comes in for Peter Murchie at full-back after playing in all five of Scotland’s Six Nations games.
Scotland prop Grant will line out at loosehead prop with Moray Low dropping to the bench and after signing a new two-year deal with the Warriors this week, Jon Welsh starts at tighthead in place of Ed Kalman. MacArthur gets the nod over Dougie Hall at hooker.
Swinson is back in the second row alongside captain Alastair Kellock and it is a familiar-looking back row with John Barclay, Josh Strauss and Ryan Wilson joining forces.
GLASGOW WARRIORS: Stuart Hogg; Sean Maitland, Sean Lamont, Peter Horne, DTH van der Merwe; Ruaridh Jackson, Niko Matawalu; Ryan Grant, Pat MacArthur, Jon Welsh, Tim Swinson, Al Kellock (capt), Josh Strauss, John Barclay, Ryan Wilson.
Replacements: Dougie Hall, Ofa Fainga’anuku, Moray Low, Tom Ryder, Rob Harley, Henry Pyrgos, Duncan Weir, Mark Bennett.
MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Doug Howlett (capt), Casey Laulala, James Downey, Johne Murphy; Ronan O’Gara, Duncan Williams; David Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell, Paddy Butler, Tommy O’Donnell, James Coughlan.
Replacements: Damien Varley, Wian du Preez, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Niall Ronan, Cathal Sheridan, Ian Keatley, Ivan Dineen.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan, Adrian Graves (both Scotland)
Television Match Official: Iain Ramage (Scotland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Glasgow Warriors to win: 4/9; Draw: 20/1; Munster to win: 9/5
Pre-Match Quotes: David Kilcoyne (Munster) – “(Having Paulie back) gives everyone a lift. It’s great to have him back – the players, supporters, management, everyone really feels better when he’s playing.
“I was blowing for the first 15 or 20 minutes against Connacht, but that’s to be expected after not playing much over the last couple of months.
“You can’t compensate for game-time so it’s great to get that 70 minutes under the belt now. We’re facing into our biggest part of the season, the knockout stages.
“Every game is massive for us from here on. We know it’s going to be difficult but we also know what we have to do.”
Gregor Townsend (Glasgow Warriors) – “We weren’t as accurate as we’d have liked against Leinster and we know we have to improve, especially defensively. Our passing also needs to be much better.
“The focus at training this week has been very similar to how we prepared for our clash with Ulster a few weeks ago – this is a very important match for us and we’ll need to be at the top of our game.
“Munster are a strong defensive team so we must take any opportunities we get. Despite being sixth in the league, they are only seven points off the top four and they can still qualify for the play-offs.
“That makes them extremely dangerous opponents and we must approach the game in the right manner.”
Top Scorers – 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Glasgow Warriors – Points: Duncan Weir 65; Tries: DTH van der Merwe 8; Munster – Points: Ian Keatley 113; Tries: Tommy O’Donnell 4
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, March 26, 2010 – Munster 27 Glasgow Warriors 19, Thomond Park
Friday, September 24, 2010 – Glasgow Warriors 29 Munster 43, Firhill Stadium
Saturday. January 8, 2011 – Munster 22 Glasgow Warriors 20, Musgrave Park
Friday, September 9, 2011 – Glasgow Warriors 12 Munster 23, Firhill Stadium
Saturday, April 14, 2012 – Munster 35 Glasgow Warriors 29, Musgrave Park
Saturday, December 1, 2012 – Munster 31 Glasgow Warriors 3, Thomond Park
– Glasgow Warriors’ record seven-match winning run in the RaboDirect PRO12 came to an end away to Leinster last Saturday night
– The Warriors have won their last five matches in all competitions at Scotstoun Stadium since losing there 9-6 to Castres in the Heineken Cup in December
– Glasgow’s only win in their last six encounters with Irish provinces was 20-14 at home to Ulster in round 16 of the league
– Munster ended a three-match winless run in the RaboDirect PRO12 with their victory over Connacht in Cork last weekend
– The Munstermen have not won outside of Ireland in the RaboDirect PRO12 since a trip to Cardiff Blues on November 2
– Munster’s only defeat in their last 15 contests with Scottish opponents in all competitions since 2009 was to Edinburgh at Murrayfield in September 2011
– Munster have won the last six matches against Glasgow since the Warriors’ last win (22-9) at Firhill Stadium in the opening game of the 2009/10 campaign