With six teams still in contention for the knock-out phase, this evening’s penultimate Magners League game is simply a win or bust for both sides.
For their part Ospreys travel with a full complement, with no distractions having exited the Heineken Cup at the quarter final and a clear ambition to atone for the disappointment of that defeat in Europe by winning the Magners League title.
The six changes they make from the side that lost to Leinster includes the return of Tommy Bowe, Lee Byrne, James Hook and Mike Phillips in the backs and Ryan Jones and Jonathan Thomas in the pack. And as statements of intent go, that a pretty clear one.
Munster also re-introduce some of their international contingent although there’s no sign of Paul O’Connell, Keith Earls, Ian Dowling or Doug Howlett but the master orchestrator Ronan O’Gara is included alongside Tomas O’Leary behind a hardened pack that once again will be led by Mick O’Driscoll who’s under no illusions about the task this evening.
“There’s no margin of error left for us. None at all.” he says. ” We want a home semi-final and if you take Leinster out of it, that leaves five teams looking for three spots. If we beat Ospreys and Cardiff, we are guaranteed a home semi-final. That’s what we’re after.
“A win tonight probably gets us a semi-final spot against someone. But Ospreys only lost by a point in Biarritz. We know each other inside out. They defend slightly differently to other teams and their counter-attack is massive. So they’re the two areas you concentrate on when you take on a side like the Ospreys. But it’s going to be a very tough game.”
Munster: P Warwick; T Gleeson, L Mafi, J De Villiers, S Deasy; R O’Gara capt, T O’Leary; M Horan, J Flannery, J Hayes; D O’Callaghan, M O’Driscoll; A Quinlan, D Wallace, J Coughlan. Replacements: D Varley, J Brugnaut, B Holland, N Ronan, P Stringer, D Hurley, S Zebo.
Ospreys: L Byrne, T Bowe, A Bishop, J Hook, S Williams; D Biggar, M Phillips; P James, H Bennett, A Jones; I Gough, J Thomas; J Collins, M Holah, R Jones (capt). Replacements: E Shervington, R Bevington, A Wyn Jones, F Tiatia, J Nutbrown, S Parker, N Walker.