After knocking Glasgow off their perch in the last round, Munster face into their second successive top of the table clash as RaboDirect PRO12 heavyweights the Ospreys come ‘trick or treating’ in Limerick.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, November 2
MUNSTER (1st) v OSPREYS (2nd), Thomond Park, 7.15pm (live TG4)
Team News: Head coach Rob Penney has made eight changes to the Munster team for Saturday night’s RaboDirect PRO12 meeting with the Ospreys at Thomond Park.
Munster have been boosted for the top of the table clash by the return of Donncha O’Callaghan and James Coughlan from the Ireland training camp – O’Callaghan will start in the second row with Coughlan listed among the replacements.
Elsewhere in the forwards, Penney has named a completely different front row as David Kilcoyne, Damien Varley and BJ Botha start with David Foley and David O’Callaghan also coming into the side.
Both Foley and O’Callaghan have most recently been invovled in the Munster ‘A’ team’s British & Irish Cup campaign. Varley captains the province for the second time this season.
In the backs, exciting winger Ronan O’Mahony keeps his place for what will be his first competitive game at Thomond Park.
Ian Keatley comes back in at out-half ahead of last weekend’s man-of-the-match JJ Hanrahan who drops back to the replacements.
Duncan Williams starts at scrum half and Felix Jones returns at full-back after a slight ankle sprain which ruled him out of the Glasgow game.
Johne Murphy moves to the right wing in place of Andrew Conway who is suffering from bruised ribs, while the centre partnership of Ivan Dineen and Casey Laulala remains intact.
Corkman Duncan Casey takes his place on the bench and the hooker will be hopeful of making his first league appearance for Munster. James Downey was not considered due to a back spasm.
Tickets are on sale for the Munster v Ospreys game online here, from the Munster Rugby Ticket offices in Musgrave Park and Thomond Park or by calling Ticketmaster on 0818 719300.
The mobile ticket office at Hassett’s Cross will be open until 7pm today, and the ticket office will be open from 9am on matchday.
Family packs are available for €;40 for two adults and two juniors (under 16 years of age).
Meanwhile, owing to injuries and international call-ups, the Ospreys have made a total of ten changes to the side that swept the Dragons aside 40-17 in Swansea.
Stand-in captain Jonathan Spratt, his centre partner Andrew Bishop, out-half Matthew Morgan, lock James King and number 8 Morgan Allen are the only survivors from that game.
The Welsh region have 11 players away on international duty with Wales and two with Canada, while loosehead prop Duncan Jones (shoulder) is one of six players not considered due to injury.
Richard Fussell returns from a shoulder knock to start at full-back, with Marc Thomas filling in for Wales call-up Ryan Bevington in the number 1 jersey.
MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Johne Murphy, Casey Laulala, Ivan Dineen, Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne, Damien Varley (capt), BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, David Foley, David O’Callaghan, Sean Dougall, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Duncan Casey, James Cronin, John Ryan, Billy Holland, James Coughlan, Cathal Sheridan, JJ Hanrahan, Cian Bohane.
OSPREYS: Richard Fussell; Aisea Natoga, Jonathan Spratt (capt), Andrew Bishop, Ben John; Matthew Morgan, Tito Tebaldi; Marc Thomas, Scott Baldwin, Joe Rees, Lloyd Peers, James King, Joe Bearman, Sam Lewis, Morgan Allen.
Replacements: Matthew Dwyer, Nicky Smith, Dan Suter, Rhodri Hughes, Arthur Ellis, Tom Habberfield, Sam Davies, Hanno Dirksen.
Referee: Giuseppe Vivarini (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Gary Conway, John Carvill (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Jude Quinn (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 2/7; Draw: 22/1; Ospreys to win: 11/4
Pre-Match Quotes: Ronan O’Mahony (Munster) – “As a young fella growing up I went to Thomond Park to watch a lot of games, playing there for the senior team is going to be pretty surreal and I can’t wait for Saturday.
“I’m just going to try to embrace the occasion, the intensity of the game is going to be right up there – a top of the table clash – you can’t get any better than that.
“A lot of family will come out and support me, they’re big into it and are very supportive. It’s great that there are two sets of brothers in the set-up. Barry and I and the Scannells (Niall and Rory in the Academy) all recently lined out for the Munster ‘A’ team in the British & Irish Cup.
“Our parents are obviously so proud, two years ago when Barry was in Clontarf and I was in Garryowen my father was trying to decide which games to go to, whether to go up to Dublin to see him play or to watch me, so at least with the ‘A’ team this year he can come out and support both of us!
“I’m just trying to build and keep working on my game. I’ve grown in confidence from the last couple of matches but you’ve got to take your opportunities.
“There are nine or ten players who can play in the back-three that are available. With Gerhard van den Heever coming in next week he’ll add more competition and Luke O’Dea is close to coming back from injury, but I can’t really focus on other players.
“I’m just concentrating on my own game and my own performance, hopefully that will be enough to keep my spot.”
Steve Tandy (Ospreys) – “This is without doubt a huge game for us. With 13 of our squad on international duty, the team will have a different dynamic to what supporters are perhaps used to.
“The squad have been working hard this week and we as coaches are really pleased with the effort and in particular, the willingness to learn that the squad’s younger players have shown at training.
“Llandarcy has been an exciting place to be this week and everyone is looking forward to the challenge of Thomond Park.??
It’s never an easy place to go to, Munster have an enviable history at home and while we are proud of the fact that we are the only non-Irish team to beat Munster there in the Rabo since 2006, it’s going to be a tough match.
“They are coming into the game after some very impressive performances and have only lost twice so far this season. While they are looking strong, we are also going into the game off the back of our victory against the Dragons last week.
“We are still working towards the full performance the result has given the squad confidence, we know what we have to do and I believe from the work put in this week that this group can deliver what we ask of them.
“We will go to Thomond Park knowing how strong we can be and hopefully we will do ourselves justice.”
Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Munster – Points: JJ Hanrahan 54; Tries: CJ Stander, James Cronin, Keith Earls, JJ Hanrahan 2 each; Ospreys – Points: Dan Biggar 92; Tries: Eli Walker 3
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, May 14, 2011 – Semi-final – Munster 18 Ospreys 11, Thomond Park
Saturday, October 8, 2011 – Munster 13 Ospreys 17, Thomond Park
Saturday, December 3, 2011 – Ospreys 19 Munster 13, Liberty Stadium
Friday, May 11, 2012 – Semi-final – Ospreys 45 Munster 10, Liberty Stadium
Saturday, September 29, 2012 – Ospreys 30 Munster 15, Liberty Stadium
Saturday, March 2, 2013 – Munster 13 Ospreys 13, Thomond Park
– Munster returned to the top of the RaboDirect PRO12 table following their toppling of previous leaders Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun Stadium last Saturday
– The Munstermen’s only loss in their last seven fixtures in the competition came in Treviso in round 3, while the only opponents from outside Ireland to have beaten Munster at Thomond Park in the league since October 2006 have been the Ospreys (twice)
– The Ospreys rose to second spot in the standings with their 40-17 bonus point victory over the Dragons at Liberty Stadium last Friday
– The Welshmen have won only one of their last seven encounters with Irish provinces in all competitions: 43-26 at Connacht on September 28
– The Ospreys are unbeaten in their last five fixtures against the Munstermen, since Munster were victorious 18-11 in a PRO12 semi-final in May 2011