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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Munster v Scarlets

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Munster v Scarlets

Fresh from their Heineken Cup heroics in Perpignan, Munster are back on league duty in Cork as they look to gain revenge on the Scarlets who beat them twice last season – including a 13-6 victory at Musgrave Park.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, December 21

MUNSTER (1st) v SCARLETS (7th), Musgrave Park, 7.15pm (live TG4/S4C)

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Team News: Gerhard van den Heever will make his home debut and Duncan Casey will start his first competitive game for Munster against the Scarlets at Musgrave Park on Saturday night.

The pair come into the side as head coach Rob Penney makes 12 changes to the team that beat Perpignan in France last weekend.

Three of the players involved in the winning try at the Stade Aime Giral – Denis Hurley, Tommy O’Donnell and JJ Hanrahan – all come into the starting line-up with Billy Holland returning as captain.

Casey Laulala maintains his presence in the centre with Ivan Dineen coming into the side to partner the former New Zealand international.

Andrew Conway will make his fifth start for the province on the left wing after recovering from a blow to the knee sustained against the Cardiff Blues.

South African van den Heever takes his place on the opposite wing for his second start since signing from Western Province, with Denis Hurley at full-back.

Cathal Sheridan retains his place at scrum half after impressing last weekend with match winner Hanrahan at out-half.

BJ Botha is the only survivor from last weekend’s front-row with David Kilcoyne and hooker Casey coming into the side.

It will be Casey’s first start and it will also be the Corkman’s first PRO12 appearance following his debut off the bench against Perpignan at Thomond Park two weeks ago.

Stand-in captain Holland is joined in the second row by Ian Nagle with both players coming into the side after starting together for Munster ‘A’ last weekend.

Penney has gone for an exciting back row combination with David O’Callaghan, O’Donnell and CJ Stander all named in the starting line-up.

Cork Constitution out-half Johnny Holland is among the replacements and will be hoping to earn his second Munster cap in front of the home crowd after his appearance off the bench against Cardiff.

Another notable name on the bench is that of development prop Alan Cotter who makes his first appearance in the matchday 23 and could make his debut.

Tickets can be purchased online here and can also be purchased from the Munster Rugby ticket offices in Thomond Park and Musgrave Park today until 5pm.

Tickets will be available on Saturday from 9am to kick-off from the Dolphin entrance in Musgrave Park and from the Sunday’s Well turnstiles from 5.45pm.

Meanwhile, Scarlets boss Simon Easterby has made nine changes – including one positional switch – to the team that took on Clermont Auvergne at Parc y Scarlets in the Heineken Cup last weekend.

Liam Williams and centre Gareth Maule are the only starting backs retained, with Williams moving from full-back to the right wing.

Gareth Owen returns to wear the number 15 jersey with Aled Thomas replacing Rhys Priestland at out-half and young international Rhodri Williams coming in at scrum half.

Ken Owens retains his place at hooker with Rob Evans and Jacobie Adriaanse making up the front row in place of Phil John and Samson Lee.

George Earle is replaced at second row by Richard Kelly with the back row of Josh Turnbull, John Barclay and number 8 and captain Rob McCusker remaining unchanged from the Clermont game.

MUNSTER: Denis Hurley; Gerhard van den Heever, Casey Laulala, Ivan Dineen, Andrew Conway; JJ Hanrahan, Cathal Sheridan; David Kilcoyne, Duncan Casey, BJ Botha, Ian Nagle, Billy Holland (capt), David O’Callaghan, Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Damien Varley, Alan Cotter, John Ryan, Donncha O’Callaghan, Barry O’Mahony, Duncan Williams, Johnny Holland, Ronan O’Mahony.

SCARLETS: Gareth Owen; Liam Williams, Gareth Maule, Adam Warren, Kristian Phillips; Aled Thomas, Rhodri Williams; Rob Evans, Ken Owens, Jacobie Adriaanse, Jake Ball, Richard Kelly, Josh Turnbull, John Barclay, Rob McCusker (capt).

Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Shaun Hopkins, Rhodri Jones, Johan Snyman, Dan Thomas, Gareth Davies, Rhys Priestland, Mike Poole.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Michael Black (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Dermot Moloney (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 1/16; Draw: 30/1; Scarlets to win: 15/2

Pre-Match Quotes: Tommy O’Donnell (Munster) – “It’s great to be back (from injury). The year didn’t get off exactly the way I wanted but I knew once a timeline was established I targeted a couple of games, rehab went very well and I’m just glad to be back.

“I had my day or two being a bit bitter and a bit angry but once the surgery was over and done with it was healing every day and I just got on with it.

“I was given a (return) date of about 12 weeks and that’s what I went for, just went about what I did, icing, compressing, working, like preparing for a match but just getting yourself right again.

“We’re top of the Rabo and it’s the best place to be. You don’t want to be in the chasing pack. You want to stay on top and keep extending your lead.

“Keep playing, keep giving lads who are playing well the opportunity because this is where the lads from the British & Irish Cup come in.

“This is their chance to shine now over the next couple of games and this is where a couple of lads stepped up last year.

“It’s a really good confidence booster to play at home in front of your home crowd, at Christmas, where there’s good crowds. It’s probably one of the best times of the year to be playing.”

Simon Easterby (Scarlets) – “We have put ourselves in a difficult position (chasing the top four teams). Certain sides above us have a little bit of a cushion. Our job now is to put some pressure on them.

“If we are still in touch with the top four after the next couple of weeks, the second half of the season is quite kind to us and hopefully we can have a good run-in like we did last year.”

Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Munster – Points: JJ Hanrahan 68; Tries: James Cronin 3; Scarlets – Points: Steve Shingler 38; Tries: Gareth Davies 5


Sunday, November 21, 2010 – Munster 27 Scarlets 26, Musgrave Park
Saturday. April 16, 2011 – Scarlets 6 Munster 13, Parc y Scarlets
Saturday, September 17, 2011 – Munster 35 Scarlets 12, Musgrave Park
Saturday, April 21, 2012 – Scarlets 20 Munster 20, Parc y Scarlets
Sunday, November 25, 2012 – Munster 6 Scarlets 13, Musgrave Park
Saturday, February 16, 2013 – Scarlets 18 Munster 10, Parc y Scarlets


– Munster have won their last seven matches in all competitions since their 29-23 defeat to Edinburgh at Murrayfield in the Heineken Cup on October 12

– The Munstermen top the RaboDirect PRO12 table courtesy of suffering only one reversal so far this season: 29-19 at Benetton Treviso in round 3

– Munster have won all four matches they have played against Welsh regions this season

– The Scarlets’ only win in their last five matches in all competitions was 24-21 at Connacht in round 8 of the PRO12. That victory in Galway represents the Welshmen’s only success on the road in any competition since November 2012

– Munster won 14 successive games against the Scarlets between April 2007 and December 2011, but since then they are winless in their last three fixtures against the Welshmen

– The Scarlets won 13-6 when they visited Musgrave Park last season