Second in the table Ospreys will be looking to reclaim top spot in the Rabodirect Pro12 when they welcome Munster to the Liberty Stadium.
Leinster’s thrashing of Cardiff saw the Ospreys surrender top and with Huw Bennett, Ryan Bevington, Dan Biggar, Ian Evans, Ryan Jones, Justin Tipuric and Shane Williams all on International duty as Wales face Australia they face a tough task against third placed Munster.
Give that Tom Habberfield, Will Price and Tom Prydie are with the Wales Sevens, Eli Walker is playing in the Help For Heroes match at Twickenham and Kahn Fotuali’i (rib), Adam Jones (calf), Alun Wyn Jones (foot), Nikki Walker (ACL) and Paul James (thumb) are all out injured it’s any wonder that coach Jonathan Humphreys can field a team at all.
The former Welsh international however while acknowledging his side faced a big task was not hiding behind the absence of so many players saying “We’ve got a good record in the PRO12 this season, we’ve only lost the one game, but we’re not kidding ourselves about where we are. We know that we’ve got to continue improving our game, working hard and find that clinical edge.
“That’s not to take anything away from this group of players who have done so well. They’ve worked hard, they are playing for the cause and they’ve been getting results. This will be the toughest test for them yet, no doubt about it given the circumstances of the game, but they have shown already that they are prepared to front up and wear the shirt with pride. They are going to have to do that again on Saturday night, and hopefully, they’ll be able to send our supporters home happy.”
Meanwhile, Munster coach Tony McGahan will hand a 200th cap to Marcus Horan and makes a total of seven changes to the side that was so impressive against Edinburgh last weekend.
Those changes come in the forwards with only Horan and Donncha O’Callaghan keeping their places as BJ Botha, Damian Varley, Peter O’Mahony, Donnacha Ryan, Denis Leamy and Niall Ronan
While Doug Howlett is the only change to the backline as he comes back into the side with youngster Luke O’Dea who scored a try on his debut last weekend making way.
Paul O’Connell and Ronan O’Gara will be amongst the replacements as Munster look to avenge their 17-13 loss back in October.
Speaking ahead of the game Donncha Ryan wasn’t expecting an easy ride despite the absence of so many players and was instead looking forward to a physical encounter, telling the Munster website “They’re always a tough side to take on, no matter where you play them but in their own back yard, more so,”
“And I don’t think it matters what side they put out, they’ll still play the same brand of rugby physical when they want to be and expansive when they can.”
“So I think we need to match them up front, take them on there and see where that gets us.”
Munster will head into the game in good form with three wins from their last three games, although they have lost three of their last 5 Rabodirect Pro12 games. Wins over Northampton and Castre not to mention the return of their World cup International has re-invigorated Munster and a win on Saturday will see them leapfrog their hosts and go second in the table.
The Ospreys meanwhile have won seven of their nine games so far this season, a draw at home to rival the Scarlets and a loss away to Glasgow the only blot on their copy book. While Humphreys team have been grinding out the wins they haven’t been able to kill of teams and have yet to get a bonus point win so far this season.
Ospreys: 15 Barry Davies, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Andrew Bishop, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Richard Fussell, 10 Matthew Morgan, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Joe Bearman, 7 James King, 6 Tom Smith (c), 5 Jonathan Thomas, 4 Ian Gough, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Mefin Davies, 17 Cai Griffiths, 18 Joe Rees, 19 George Stowers, 20 Sam Lewis, 21 Tom Isaacs, 22 Sonny Parker, 23 Hanno Dirksen.
Munster: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Will Chambers, 12 Danny Barnes, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Tomas O’Leary, 8 Peter O’Mahony (c) 7 Niall Ronan, 6 Denis Leamy, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Marcus Horan.
Replacements: 16 Denis Fogarty, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Paul O’Connell, 20 James Coughlan, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Ronan O’Gara, 23 Johne Murphy.