If there’s one thing that Munster and Ospreys have in common this evening it’s the pressure thats on them to perform and earn a place in the Magners Grand Final on May 28th.
By their own admission neither sides have produced the type of performance they expect of themselves and though Munster have been a model of consistency throughout this Magners campaign, they are fully aware that ultimately that campaign will be judged, initially, on tonight's outcome.
For their part, Ospreys despite being accused of underperforming have scrambled their way into the position to retain a title they won last season thanks then to wins on the road in Ravenhill, here in Limerick and finally in the RDS. Now they're just 80 minutes away from a victory that would produce a repeat of last year's final
And they travel with a side that even shy of Lee Byrne, Mike Phillips and Shane Williams, can boast 12 international – four of those Lions – in the starting line-up and two former All Blacks, Marty Holah and Jerry Collins on the bench, the latter possibly fortunate to be making the trip having been yellow carded for that head high tackle on Felix Jones in the dying moments of the game at the Liberty three weeks ago.
For Munster besides the carrot of a home semi final against arch rivals Leinster – 18-3 winners last night against Ulster – they're the player's stated aim to make amends for a disappointing performance last time they occupied a big stage, here in Thomond Park three weeks ago.
They've led this League since the very early rounds, wound up with a 13 point cushion and will not want to see all that hard work end this evening.
However, they face the side they would least have liked of those left in contention for that final spot. Victory in the Liberty at the end of April seemed certain to remove Ospreys from the equation but they're back and probably with a grievance feeling they've a score to settle.
The pressure on both sides will be intense. The one that handles it better will go on to face probably the European champions in the final.
Munster: F Jones; D Howlett, D Barnes, L Mafi, K Earls; R O'Gara, C Murray; M Horan, D Varley, J Hayes; D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell capt; D Ryan, D Wallace, J Coughlan. Replacements: M Sherry, W du Preez, S Archer, D Leamy, N Ronan, P Stringer, P Warwick, S Zebo.
Ospreys: R Fussel, T Bowe, A Bishop, J Hook, N Walker, D Biggar, R Webb, P James, H Bennett, A Jones, I Gough, A Wyn Jones capt, R Jones, J Tipuric, J Thomas Replacements: R Hibbard, R Bevington, C Griffiths, J Collins, T Smith, M Holah, T Isaacs, A Beck.
Referee: Nigel Owens