Preview: Munster v Scarlets

Date published: September 16 2011

Tony McGahan has made five changes to the Munster team to face Scarlets in a RaboDirect PRO12 clash on Saturday.

Tony McGahan has made five changes to the Munster team to face Scarlets in a RaboDirect PRO12 clash on Saturday.

The Munstermen have won their first to games of the season and a record twelve games on the trot. McGahan will be hoping to extend that run when Scarlets visit Thomond Park but the coach has been forced in to making changes.

Hooker Damien Varley has been called up to the Ireland World Cup squad and Mike Sherry comes in to the team to replace him. Marcus Horan slots in alongside Varley at tighthead prop at the expense of Wian du Preez.

Elsewhere in the pack, young Dave Foley is handed his first competitive start of the season with Billy Holland dropping to the bench.

The second enforced change is in the midfield where Danny Barnes is ruled out by a hand injury. Tom Gleeson comes in at outside centre to replace him. Winger Simon Zebo is forced to make do with a place on the bench with Denis Hurley returning to the starting XV.

Despite their impressive run of form, second rower Mick O'Driscoll refuses to get caught up in talk of records and multiple victories.

“Look, what we won last season counts for nothing this time around. What we'll be aware of is that we've won our two games so far. That's it. You don't carry forward points forward from last season” said O'Driscoll.

“And next up is Scarlets at home and the aim is to win that. Pure and simple. Others can talk of records or whatever, but we start the season with a clean sheet.”

Meanwhile, the Scarlets have made four changes to the starting line-up that narrowly lost out to Connacht away last weekend in Galway.

Yet another young Scarlet gets handed a big opportunity early in the season with 19 year-old full-back Dale Ford getting a start at 15.

Ford, a shining example of the Scarlets development pathway, was born and bred in the region and a product of the Scarlets Academy. He has honours at international age grade with Wales U18 and was selected for last season's Wales U20 squad.

Andy Fenby returns from injury back on the wing. Wales U20 hooker Kirby Myhill starts with Emyr Phillips on the bench and Lou Reed comes back into the second row alongside Dominic Day.

The Scarlets are ready for a tough challenge against a Munster side that have beaten them in their last 11 encounters.

“We were very disappointed that we lost last weekend in a game that for the large part we were in control of,” said Head Coach Nigel Davies.

“We created plenty of opportunities – which we're always capable of doing; but we lacked cohesion and communication as a side and as a result of that we didn't take the chances to seal the win.

“I thought our forwards went well again and that will be key out in Munster, and our set piece has performed well. We are challenging well in games and have shown that we're competitive – the responsibility rests on our young backs now to really gel; they're talented and gifted players, but we have to communicate better as team.

Form: Munster's record sequence of wins in their last dozen matches in the tournament continued with their 23-12 victory at Glasgow last Friday in the RaboDirect PRO12. The Munstermen have won their last 12 games at Musgrave Park since a Glasgow success there on 10 May 2008. Scarlets tripped up 11-13 at Connacht on Friday to end a three game winning run in the competition. Scarlets' have not won a match in Ireland since a visit to Connacht on 9 January 2009. Munster have won their last eleven encounters with Scarlets since the Welshmen knocked them out of the European Cup at the quarter-final stage at the old Stradey Park in March 2007.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Munster: 15 Johne Murphy, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Tom Gleeson, 12 Lifiemi Mafi, 11 Denis Hurley, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Niall Ronan, 6 Peter O'Mahony (capt), 5 Mick O'Driscoll, 4 Dave Foley, 3 Marcus Horan, 2 Mike Sherry, 1 John Hayes
Replacements: 16 Denis Fogarty, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 BJ Botha, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Scott Deasy, 23 Simon Zebo.

Scarlets: 15 Dale Ford, 14 Lee Williams, 13 Rhodri Gomer Davies 12 Gareth Maule, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Dan Newton, 9 Ruki Tipuna, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Rob McCusker, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Lou Reed, 3 Rhys Thomas, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Iestyn Thomas (c).
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Phil John, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Aaron Shingler, 20 Johnathan Edwards, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Lee Rees.

Date: Saturday, September 17
Venue: Musgrave Park
Kick-off: 19.45 (18.45 GMT)
Referee: Andy Macpherson (SRU)