First plays second in the Rabo Direct Pro 12 on Saturday as Munster host Ospreys at Thormond Park. Both sides are missing key performers with Ireland and Wales facing off in the World Cup on Saturday, but the teams will be eager to build on early season form.
Munster have started well in the competition, winning four out of five matches. The Irish side will be hoping to continue their impressive home record which has seen them avoid defeat in the competition since April 24 2010, when Ospreys beat them.
Munster are second in the league after losing 29-14 away to Edinburgh last Friday. The loss cost the Irish team top spot in the league and ended a record breaking 14 match winning streak. Greig Laidlaw did most of the damage for Edinburgh, kicking five penalties and two conversions. Danny Barnes scored Munster’s only try, while Ian Keatley hit three penalties.
Munster had enjoyed a 100 per cent record in their opening four matches. The Irish side beat Dragons 20-12 in the opening match, Lifeimi Mafi and Danny Barnes scoring tries. Niall Ronan and Simon Zebo tries then helped Munster beat Glasgow 23-12.
Munster’s biggest victory so far came against Scarlets when the Irish team comfortably won 35-12 after scores from Doug Howlett, Duncan Williams and Tommy O’Donnell and a penalty try. Six Ian Keatley penalties then helped Munster overcome a difficult away journey to Cardiff. Keatley has been a consistent contributor for Munster and is the competition’s joint-second highest point scorer with 65 points.
Ospreys are the table toppers after winning their opening five matches and are hoping to complete an early clean-sweep over the Irish teams. The Welsh side impressively dismantled Leinster in the first week, scoring three tries and winning 27-3. Ospreys have also recorded a comfortable 32-14 victory over Ulster and a narrow 26-21 win over Connaught.
The Welsh team’s most dramatic victory came at home to Edinburgh. The sides were tied in the 80th minute, but a try from captain Justin Tipuric and conversion from Dan Biggur helped the Ospreys win 26-19. A trip to Italy also saw Ospreys come away with a 32-27 victory over Benetton Treviso.
Last season Munster beat Ospreys 22-10 at Thomond Park in September, while the Irish side also won 22-20 at the Liberty Stadium.
Doug Howlett and Marcus Horan have been included in Munster’s 29 man squad for the encounter. Ospreys’ new signings Kahn Fotuali’i, George Stowers and Chauncey O’Toole have completed their World Cup participation but will not join up with the squad until later in the month.
Munster Squad v Ospreys: S Deasy; S Scanlon, D Howlett, S Zebo.J Murphy, D Barnes, T Gleeson, L Mafi, D Hurley; I Keatley, D Williams, P Stringer; M Horan, W du Preez, J Ryan, J Hayes, S Archer, BJ Botha, D Fogarty, S Henry, D Foley, I Nagle, M O’Driscoll, B Holland, T O’Donnell, D O’Callaghan, N Ronan, P O’Mahony, P Butler.