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Preview: Ospreys v Munster

10th May 2012 11:47

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Shane Williams 1024

Not done yet: Shane Williams

In a repeat of last season's semi-final the Ospreys take on Munster in the RaboDirect PRO12, but this time the Welsh side will have home advantage.

Their 2010/11 clash at Thomond Park was a close affair that Munster managed to win 18-11. Expect a similar scoreline to either XV on Friday.

The Ospreys are in an excellent run of form right now after winning five straight PRO12 fixtures - six out of eight since Steve Tandy took over the reins. Therefore it has come as no surprise that the Welsh have been installed as favourites, against a side they have beaten twice this campaign.

Munster meanwhile are in something of a period of transition after numerous retirements being announced while Paul O'Connell is out injured.

Donncha O'Callaghan, a replacement against Ulster, comes into the side for the injured O'Connell in an otherwise unchanged pack.

In the backs, Ian Keatley, a late withdrawal last weekend, replaces Scott Deasy at fly-half, while no surprise that a fit again Keith Earls in named at 13 with Ivan Dineen on the bench.

Ronan O'Gara has been named among the replacements after coming through training on Wednesday unscathed and Dave Kilcoyne is preferred to Marcus Horan in the number 17.

Meanwhile, Tandy has made his decision on the scrum-half dilemma and chosen Samoan Kahn Fotuali'i ahead of young Welshman Rhys Webb for the big clash. And Tandy, who is doing a fine job since assuming the position, is braced for a typically Munster performance.

"Munster will be coming to the Liberty with a winning mentality as they always do, wherever they play, whoever the opposition and whatever the game. They're a tough bunch, steely edged, with the knowhow and experience to win tight games and they won't be contemplating losing. You can guarantee that much," he told the Ospreys' official website.

"For us, it's a great game to host at the Liberty after having to go away to Munster at this stage last season and we're really looking forward to the challenge. The team have worked hard to get us into the position over the last couple of months and they've been rewarded with a home semi, but now they have to start all over again. It's a one off game and results in the run-up don't matter now, it's all about who comes out on top on Friday night.

"It's going to be a tough old battle between two teams who know each other very well, two teams who will have to slug it out to get control out there, but it should be a tight, edgy affair as games between the Ospreys and Munster always are. We'll have our home support behind us and they'll have an important part to play as well, as we'll need to make full use of every advantage we can get."

Form: Ospreys and Munster have both reached the Play-Offs for a third successive year, with Ospreys going on to become champions in 2010 and the Munster last season. Ospreys have won their last five RaboDirect PRO12 encounters and have been defeated just once at Liberty Stadium in the tournament this season: in round 17 to Glasgow. Ospreys only loss to an Irish province this season was 14-15 to Ulster at Ravenhill on 24 February. Munster are unbeaten in their last three, and have lost only once on the road in any competition in 2012: 17-21 at Aironi in round 14 of the PRO12. The Munstermen are unbeaten in their last five encounters with Welsh regions in all competitions. The two sides met at this same stage last season, where Munster won 18-11 at Thomond Park. The Munstermen have won twice before at Liberty Stadium: 25-21 in January 2009 and 22-20 in April 2011.

Ones to watch:

For Ospreys: In what could be his last game at Liberty Stadium - depending on the result in the other RaboDirect PRO12 semi-final - Shane Williams has made something of a habit out of going out with a bang. For Wales, he scored in his last Test late on while he also went over for the Ospreys in what could have been his last game in black a couple of weeks ago. Therefore, all eyes will be on the wing again as he looks to further extend his playing career.

For Munster: IRUPA Young Player of the Year, Peter O'Mahony has made a name for himself this season and is expected to be on the plane for New Zealand for their upcoming Tests. The back-row is a busy player and while he will be a vital cog in the Munster side, Ronan O'Gara's importance once again cannot be underplayed. If the fly-half can get the upper hand on Dan Biggar and put his side in the right areas, then Munster have a shot.

Prediction: We are backing the Welsh for this one. Ospreys by 6!

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Andrew Bishop, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Ryan Jones, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 James King, 20 Tom Smith, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Matthew Morgan, 23 Tom Isaacs.

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Johne Murphy, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Lifeimi Mafi, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Peter O'Mahony, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Donnacha Ryan, 5 Mick O'Driscoll, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Mike Sherry, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Denis Fogarty, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Dave O'Callaghan, 20 Paddy Butler, 21 Tomas O'Leary, 22 Ronan O'Gara, 23 Ian Dineen.

Date: Friday, May 11
Kick-off: 19:35 BST
Venue: Liberty Stadium
Referee: Alain Rolland (IRFU)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens (WRU), Marius Mitrea (FIR)
Citing Commissioner: Gwyn Bowden (WRU)
TMO: Nigel Whitehouse (WRU)

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