Unbeaten Munster are back on home soil for their third outing in this season’s RaboDirect PRO12, with the Scarlets, a team they have overcome on 11 successive occasions since 2007, providing the opposition.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, September 17
MUNSTER (5th) v SCARLETS (6th), Musgrave Park, 7.45pm (live TG4)
Team News: Head coach Tony McGahan has made five changes to the Munster team and included BJ Botha on the replacements bench for Saturday’s RaboDirect PRO12 tussle with the Scarlets.
Two of the five alterations are forced with the call-up for Damien Varley to the Ireland Rugby World squad – Varley flew out from Dublin Airport on Thursday evening – while Danny Barnes has a minor hand injury and is ruled out.
Mike Sherry comes into the starting line-up as does Marcus Horan this time around, with the only other change in the pack being Dave Foley’s inclusion instead of Billy Holland. It will be the young lock’s first competitive start of the season.
In the backs, Tom Gleeson, a second half replacement for try scorer Simon Zebo in Glasgow last weekend, comes in for Barnes at outside centre.
Zebo slips to the bench to make way for Denis Hurley, the player he replaced against the Newport Gwent Dragons in the league opener when Hurley picked up a slight hamstring injury.
Meanwhile, Scarlets boss Nigel Davies has made four changes to the team that narrowly lost out to Connacht in Galway last weekend.
Another young Scarlet gets handed a big opportunity early in the season away in Munster with their 19-year-old full-back Dale Ford getting a start in the number 15 jersey.
Ford, who has come through the Scarlets development pathway, was born and bred in the region and a product of the Scarlets Academy.
He has played previously with Burry Port, then Llanelli RFC and has honours at international age grade with the Wales Under-18s and was selected for last season’s Wales Under-20 squad.
Andy Fenby returns from injury on the left wing and Wales Under-20 hooker Kirby Myhill starts with Emyr Phillips on the bench. Lou Reed is also back in the second row alongside Dominic Day.
MUNSTER: Johne Murphy; Doug Howlett, Tom Gleeson, Lifeimi Mafi, Denis Hurley; Ian Keatley, Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Mike Sherry, John Hayes, Dave Foley, Mick O’Driscoll, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Niall Ronan, James Coughlan.
Replacements: Denis Fogarty, Wian du Preez, BJ Botha, Billy Holland, Tommy O’Donnell, Duncan Williams, Scott Deasy, Simon Zebo.
SCARLETS: Dale Ford; Lee Williams, Rhodri Gomer Davies, Gareth Maule, Andy Fenby; Dan Newton, Ruki Tipuna; Iestyn Thomas (capt), Kirby Myhill, Rhys Thomas, Lou Reed, Dominic Day, Rob McCusker, Josh Turnbull, Ben Morgan.
Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Phil John, Rhodri Jones, Aaron Shingler, Johnathan Edwards, Gareth Davies, Aled Thomas, Lee Rees.
Referee: Andy Macpherson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Dudley Phillips, Kevin Beggs (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Jude Quinn (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 1/7; Draw: 30/1; Scarlets to win: 4/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Mick O’Driscoll (Munster) – “I think it’s great to see it (the captaincy) go from arm to arm if you like. James (Coughlan) and Dougie (Howlett) have led the side and they’re always there to lend their support.
“We’ve always said there are plenty of leaders in the squad and that shows there is. With new fresh faces, I think it’s a good thing that one of them is leading the side.
“Peter (O’Mahony) has plenty of experience at it, at club, in school and Ireland Under-20s, so he knows what’s required. and he has shown he’s well up to it.
“What we we won last season counts for nothing this time around. What we’ll be aware of is that we’ve won our two games so far. That’s it. You don’t carry forward points forward from last season.
“We’ve the Scarlets at home and the aim is to win that. Pure and simple. Others can talk of records or whatever, but we start the season with a clean sheet.
“Two games gone, two wins and even they’re consigned to history for now because all that matters is the 80 or so minutes on Saturday night.”
Nigel Davies (Scarlets) – “We were very disappointed that we lost (to Connacht) last weekend in a game that for the large part we were in control of.
“We created plenty of opportunities – which we’re always capable of doing – but we lacked cohesion and communication as a side and as a result of that we didn’t take the chances to seal the win.
“I thought our forwards went well again and that will be key out in Munster, and our set piece has performed well.
“We are challenging well in games and have shown that we’re competitive – the responsibility rests on our young backs now to really gel. They’re talented and gifted players, but we have to communicate better as team.
“We have to go to Munster with confidence that we can play and win this game, we’ve shown we are competitive and all our recent games against them have been tight.
“They have a great belief and mental attitude that they can close out games and that is something we have focused on and will need to bring to get a result on Saturday.”
Top Scorers – 2011/12 RaboDirect PRO12: Munster – Points: Ian Keatley 23; Tries: Danny Barnes, Lifeimi Mafi, Niall Ronan, Simon Zebo 1 each; Scarlets – Points: Dan Newton 25; Tries: Andy Fenby, Rhys Thomas, Aaron Shingler 1 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, May 3, 2008 – Scarlets 23 Munster 24, Stradey Park
Friday, November 28, 2008 – Scarlets 16 Munster 18, Parc y Scarlets
Friday, April 24, 2009 – Munster 29 Scarlets 10, Musgrave Park
Saturday, September 19, 2009 – Scarlets 20 Munster 22, Parc y Scarlets
Thursday, March 18, 2010 – Munster 23 Scarlets 17, Musgrave Park
Sunday, November 21, 2010 – Munster 27 Scarlets 26, Musgrave Park
Saturday. April 16, 2011 – Scarlets 6 Munster 13, Parc y Scarlets
– Munster’s record sequence of wins in their last dozen matches in the competition continued with their 23-12 victory at Glasgow last Friday in the RaboDirect PRO12
– The Munstermen have won their last 12 games at Musgrave Park since a Glasgow success there in May 2008
– The Scarlets tripped up 13-11 at Connacht last Friday to end a three-game winning run in the competition. They have not won a match in Ireland since a visit to Connacht in January 2009
– Munster have won their last eleven encounters with the Scarlets since the Welshmen knocked them out of the Heineken Cup at the quarter-final stage at the old Stradey Park in March 2007