Munster will not only want to put the disappointment of their trip to Newport behind them with a positive performance when they play the Scarlets in Musgrave Park tonight but also put themselves back into serious contention for a place in the knock-out stages of the competition.
They sit in fifth place this morning thanks only to Connacht’s win over Dragons last night, knowing that the next stage of the Magners League – with three home games in a row to come – will decide their fate in this year’s competition. It’s situation coach Tony McGahan readily accepts.
“We’ve created our own situation with our performance, our attitude and execution on the road and that makes the remaining home games very important.” he said. ” That starts with the Scarlets which really is a cup final for us to make sure we continue to push our way forward to the top four. If we get a result tonight,we do that. If we don’t it certainly gives us a bit of ground to chase.”
After tonight’s game, two of the immediate pitfalls on that road come in the shape of Glasgow Warriors next week, themselves chasing knock-out glory and Leinster the Heineken Cup champions a week later so really Munster have very little wriggle room left.
With the likes of Ronan O’Gara and Tony Buckley engaged with Ireland on Saturday, the changes McGahan has made reflects the particular occasion rather than what has gone before. “It’s a case really of looking at what is the best 22, the best 15 for this week and we’re also looking to give everyone the opportunity to impress going into latter part of the season. We believe the 15, the 22 players we’ve selected are the best group of players to get the result we need.”
One of the interesting selections is Scott Deasy at full back and with the obvious switch of Paul Warwick to out-half in O’Gara’s absence and Denis Hurley’s credentials already beyond question, Deasy’s selection at 15 looks like good business on the coach’s part.
McGahan expands, “Scott’s come up from the Academy, did the pre-season with us. He’s been in and out of the senior training environment most of the year but ever since our warm-weather camp in Lanzarote we’ve put him in full time with the senior squad and he’s certainly taken his chances. He played ten against Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago and we thought he performed very well so we’re giving him an opportunity where he’s probably more comfortable, at fifteen.”
“Scarlets current form is very good. They’d an excellent result against a good Ulster side. They’ve also good form in the LV Cup and they’ll be coming to Musgrave to get a result. They’ve got their own motivation with Heineken Cup qualification. They’ve a lot to play for, are a very proud province. We’ve had excellent battles with them in the past and this one will be as tough as anything that’s gone before”
Munster: S Deasy; D Howlett, T Gleeson, J de Villiers, I Dowling; P Warwick, P Stringer; M Horan, D Varley, J Brugnaut; M O’Driscoll capt, B Holland; N Williams, N Ronan, J Coughlan. Replacements: D Fogarty, D Ryan, A Quinlan, T O’Donnell, D Williams, J Manning, D Hurley.
Scarlets: D Newton; J Ajuwa, R King, J Davies, A Fenby; R Priestland, T Knoyle; I Thomas, K Owens, D Manu; L Reed, D Day; J Turnbull, R Pugh, D Lyons capt. Replacements: P John, E Phillips, D Welch, R McCusker, M Roberts, D Evans, G Maule.