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RaboDirect PRO12 Semi-Final Preview: Ospreys v Munster

RaboDirect PRO12 Semi-Final Preview: Ospreys v Munster

The Munster team may be missing some big names, but they are still more than capable of pulling off an away play-off victory over the Ospreys as they bid for back-to-back RaboDirect PRO12 titles.


OSPREYS (2nd) v MUNSTER (3rd), Liberty Stadium, 7.35pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC 2 Wales)

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Team News: Munster head coach Tony McGahan has named a starting line-up along expected lines for Friday’s RaboDirect PRO12 semi-final clash with the Ospreys in Swansea.

Donncha O’Callaghan, a replacement against Ulster, comes into the side for the injured Paul O’Connell (knee) in an otherwise unchanged pack.

In the backs, Ian Keatley, a late withdrawal last weekend, replaces Scott Deasy at out-half and it is no surprise that a fit-again Keith Earls returns at outside centre.

Ronan O’Gara, who has been out of action with a leg injury recently, has been named among the replacements after coming through training yesterday unscathed.

Promising prop Dave Kilcoyne, fresh from recent appearances against the Scarlets and Ulster, has been preferred to Marcus Horan for the number 17 jersey.

In a late switch, Felix Jones has been forced to withdraw from the side due to a shoulder injury he picked up in training on Wednesday.

His place at full-back goes to Johne Murphy and Ivan Dineen has been promoted from the bench to fiill the number 14 jersey. Danny Barnes has been added to the replacements.

Previewing Friday’s encounter, Murphy said: “Sure, it will be tough. Shane Williams is moving on. He’s retiring so it’s his last game at the Liberty (Stadium).

“There are guys like that for whom it’s going to be huge. But it’s the same for us, for guys like Micko (Mick O’Driscoll), Tony (McGahan), Tomas (O’Leary) and Mafs (Lifeimi Mafi).

“We want to send these guys off on a fantastic note by retaining the league title.”

Meanwhile, young flanker Justin Tipuric will make his 50th appearance for the Ospreys in the semi-final clash with the reigning league champions.

Tipuric has recovered from a back complaint that ruled him out of their 18-11 win over Aironi last weekend. Head coach Steve Tandy has made a few tweaks to the side that started that game.

Retiring winger Shane Williams returns on the left wing for most probably his last appearance at the Liberty Stadium. Eli Walker is the player to make way in the only change to the back-line.

The front five, which includes Lions prop Adam Jones and the region’s captain Alun Wyn Jones, is unchanged and there are two alterations in the back row – Tipuric and Ryan Jones will start in place of Sam Lewis and Tom Smith respectively.

Ireland international Tommy Bowe (haematoma) heads the Ospreys’ injury list, and Huw Bennett (Achilles), Cai Griffiths (arm) and Nikki Walker (ACL) are also notable absentees.

OSPREYS: Richard Fussell; Hanno Dirksen, Andrew Bishop, Ashley Beck, Shane Williams; Dan Biggar, Kahn Fotuali’i; Paul James, Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Ian Evans, Ryan Jones, Justin Tipuric, Joe Bearman.

Replacements: Scott Baldwin, Ryan Bevington, Aaron Jarvis, James King, Tom Smith, Rhys Webb, Matthew Morgan, Tom Isaacs.

MUNSTER: Johne Murphy; Ivan Dineen, Keith Earls, Lifeimi Mafi, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Wian du Preez, Mike Sherry, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll, Donnacha Ryan, Tommy O’Donnell, Peter O’Mahony (capt).

Replacements: Denis Fogarty, Dave Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, David O’Callaghan, Paddy Butler, Tomas O’Leary, Ronan O’Gara, Danny Barnes.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Television Match Official: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ospreys to win: 8/15; Draw: 18/1; Munster to win: 13/8

Pre-Match Quotes: Conor Murray (Munster) – “There has been chat during the year that our squad is young, not experienced enough and not strong enough. There are a lot of people in here that wouldn’t think that to be true.

“Obviously, it hurt watching the two provinces (Leinster and Ulster) in the semis two weeks ago but that is gone now. It is our fault that we lost against Ulster; it wasn’t their fault, so we can’t hold a grudge against them.

“Ultimately, they are provinces and it’s great to see them in the final, but we have to be fully focused on this and it would be a great tournament to win.

“Last year it gave us a huge boost at the end of the year. Obviously it brings players through, you gain great experience from these weekends, so it is crucial and it would be a great way to finish the year.

“It will be very tough. We know the Ospreys quite well; we played them a lot last year and have already gone over there this year.

“It is quite a tough place to go and you’d imagine they’ll pull a better crowd than usual supporting them this time around. And with Shane Williams playing his last game at the Liberty – it probably will be – you’d imagine they’ll be well motivated as well.

“They like to throw it around, which is quite dangerous, and if we are anyway loose they can attack from anywhere and score tries from anywhere; we just have to look out for that.”

Steve Tandy (Ospreys) – “Munster will be coming to the Liberty with a winning mentality as they always do, wherever they play, whoever the opposition and whatever the game.

“They’re a tough bunch, steely edged, with the know-how and experience to win tight games and they won’t be contemplating losing. You can guarantee that much.

“For us, it’s a great game to host at the Liberty after having to go away to Munster at this stage last season and we’re really looking forward to the challenge.

“The team have worked hard to get us into the position over the last couple of months and they’ve been rewarded with a home semi, but now they have to start all over again. It’s a one-off game and results in the run-up don’t matter now, it’s all about who comes out on top on Friday night.

“It’s going to be a tough old battle between two teams who know each other very well, two teams who will have to slug it out to get control out there, but it should be a tight, edgy affair as games between the Ospreys and Munster always are.

“We’ll have our home support behind us and they’ll have an important part to play as well, as we’ll need to make full use of every advantage we can get.”

Top Scorers – 2011/12 RaboDirect PRO12: Ospreys – Points: Dan Biggar 216; Tries: Hanno Dirksen 5; Munster – Points: Ian Keatley 177; Tries: Simon Zebo 8


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
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


– The Ospreys and Munster have both reached the play-offs for a third successive year, with the Ospreys going on to become champions in 2010 and the Munster doing so last season

– The Ospreys have won their last five RaboDirect PRO12 encounters and have been defeated just once at the Liberty Stadium in the league this season, in round 17 against Glasgow Warriors

– The Ospreys’ only loss to an Irish province this season was 15-14 to Ulster at Ravenhill back in February

– Munster are unbeaten in their last three games, and have lost only once on the road in any competition in 2012, going down 21-17at Aironi in round 14 of the RaboDirect PRO12

– The Munstermen are unbeaten in their last five encounters with Welsh regions in all competitions

– The two sides met at this same stage last season when Munster won 18-11 at Thomond Park. The Munstermen have won twice before at the Liberty Stadium, 25-21 in January 2009 and 22-20 in April 2011