Preview: Munster v Scarlets

Date published: February 23 2017

Rassie Erasmus has named his matchday 23 for Friday's Round 16 PRO12 encounter against the Scarlets at Thomond Park. 

In making five changes to the side that grinded out the win against Ospreys last weekend this Friday's game comes too soon for Jack O'Donoghue and Rory Scannell.

O'Donoghue (ankle) and Scannell (knee) are expected to make a return to full training at some point next week.

On a positive front, Jaco Taute has made a full recovery from his shoulder knock sustained against the Dragons to start at full-back this weekend.

The only other change to the backline sees academy centre Dan Goggin take his place alongside Francis Saili in midfield.

In making his second PRO12 start, academy back-row Conor Oliver makes his first appearance in the number eight jersey as he joins Dave O'Callaghan and Tommy O'Donnell in the back three.

Tipperary lock Dave Foley links up with Billy Holland in the engine room as Stephen Archer takes his place in the front-row scrumming down next to Rhys Marshall and Dave Kilcoyne.

In the replacements, Bantry native and first year academy lock Fineen Wycherley is included in his first PRO12 squad. The 19-year-old Young Munster player has made two starts for the Ireland U20s in this year's Six Nations campaign.

Finally, Ian Keatley and Andrew Conway return from Ireland camp to be named in the matchday 23. 

Meanwhile, Scarlets have made two changes to the side that secured victory over Zebre at Parc y Scarlets last weekend.

The West Wales region head to Thomond Park to take on table toppers Munster on Friday looking to continue on their quest to secure a place in the championship top four during the international window.

Head Coach Wayne Pivac has made two changes to the side that ran in six tries against Zebre with DTH van der Merwe returning from a hamstring strain and Ryan Elias returning to the starting line up.

Scrum-half Aled Davies has been released from the Wales camp whilst Steff Evans hasn't been made available for this weekend's clash.

Former Wales U20 stars Dafydd Hughes and Ioan Nicholas have been named on the replacements bench with Hughes hoping to make his PRO12 debut and Nicholas hoping for a first PRO12 appearance this season.

Speaking ahead of the PRO12 clash against Munster, Pivac said: "You don't have to have a look at too many clips to see how they play the game but they're very, very, efficient.

"They play a territory game and have a strong defence. They're a strong side and not only are they efficient in the way they play the game but they've also got a great fighting spirit in the squad this year.

"Week in week out they're performing over the 80 minutes, every team is striving to do that but they've done it really, really well. They've had some close calls but they've come out on the right side and that's a sign of a well bonded team."

Form: Munster have won their last eight matches in all competitions whilst in the PRO12 they have lost just once since round 2, at Leinster in October. Scarlets have been defeated only once in the PRO12 since mid-September, 9-19 to Ospreys at Liberty Stadium on 27 December. The Welsh region have won away from home against an Irish province just once since November 2013, and that by a single point at Ulster a year ago. Munster’s only defeat in their last five encounters with Scarlets was 22-25 in Llanelli in round 5 last year, whilst the Scarlets only previous victory at Thomond Park since they became a region was in September 2003.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Dan Goggin, 11 Ronan O'Mahony, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal (c), 9 Duncan Williams, 8 Conor Oliver, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6  Dave O'Callaghan, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Dave Foley, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16 Kevin O'Byrne, 17 Peter McCabe, 18 Brian Scott, 19 Darren O'Shea, 20 Fineen Wycherley, 21 Abrie Griesel, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Andrew Conway

Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 DTH van der Merwe, 13 Steff Hughes, 12 Hadleigh Parkes (c), 11 Tom Williams, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Will Boyde, 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Tom Price, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Dafydd Hughes, 17 Luke Garrett, 18 Nicky Thomas, 19 Rynier Bernardo, 20 Morgan Allen, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Ioan Nicholas

Date: Friday, February 24
Venue: Thomond Park
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)
Assistant Referees: (Wales), Jonny Erskine (Ireland)
TMO: Charles Samson (Scotland)