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Preview: Munster v Ospreys

01st March 2013 12:51

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Doug Howlett Munster

Captain: Doug Howlett

There are five changes in personnel for Munster for the visit of Ospreys to Thomond Park Stadium on Saturday in the RaboDirect Pro12.

Three of those changes are unsurprising in that they accommodate the return of internationals Ronan O'Gara and Dave Kilcoyne, and skipper Doug Howlett.

The other notable change is at scrum-half where opportunity knocks for Cathal Sheridan who makes his first competitive start for Munster while Rob Penney continues to rotate Garryowen club-mates Damien Varley and Mike Sherry, Varley getting the nod for the number two jersey this time around.

Penney keeps faith with the back five selected for Treviso even though Niall Ronan was back in the mix after 80 minutes with Shannon at the weekend but Sean Dougal is preferred as back-row back up to CJ Stander who is omitted from the match day squad.

Meanwhile, Alun Wyn Jones captains the Ospreys at Thomond Park after returning for Wales last weekend in the national side's win over Italy in Rome.

Kahn Fotuali'i reverts back to his regular position of scrum-half with Ashley Beck's selection at inside centre pushing Tom Issacs out onto the wing.

Duncan Jones starts at loosehead prop ahead of Ryan Bevington, with Jonathan Thomas moving to number eight following the selection of Jones in the second row.

"It's important that we put in a big performance on Saturday night," said Ospreys boss Steve Tandy.

"Having suffered two defeats on the road, Munster will be happy to be back at Thomond Park where they have an enviable record and will want to secure the win that will cut the gap between us going into the final five rounds.

"With four of the last six games away from home we understand the size of the task in front of us but we believe in ability of this squad to rise to the challenge. It's not going to be easy but they've shown throughout the season that they won't take a backward step and never know when they're beaten.

"We'll need to see that spirit in every game between now and the end of the season, they'll need to give everything for the cause, and if we see that from them then we've got a real chance of reaching the last four once again."

Form: Munster have slipped to three defeats in their last four RaboDirect PRO12 fixtures. The Munstermen's only two home losses in any competition this season have both been to Welsh opponents at Musgrave Park in the PRO12. - the last Welsh region with win at Thomond Park were Ospreys themselves on 8 October 2011. Ospreys only reversal in their last seven RaboDirect PRO12 contests was 10-22 to Connacht in Galway on 15 February in their most recent away game in the tournament - they have not lost back to back PRO12 away fixtures since Christmas-New Year 2011-12. Ospreys have won their last four encounters with Munster since the Munstermen were victorious at Thomond Park in the 2011 semi-final of the PRO12. The Welsh region have won on two of their nine previous visits to Thomond Park in all competitions.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Doug Howlett (c), 13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11 Denis Hurley, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Cathal Sheridan, 8 James Coughlan. 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Paddy Butler, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Ian Nagle, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Damien Varley, 1 David Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 BJ Botha, 19 Dave Foley, 20 Sean Dougall, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Ivan Dineen.

Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Tom Habberfield, 13 Jonathan Spratt, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Tom Issacs, 10 Matthew Morgan, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Jonathan Thomas, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 James King, 5 Lloyd Peers, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 3 Cai Griffiths, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dwyer, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Dmitri Arhip, 19 Ian Gough, 20 Dan Baker, 21 Arthur Ellis/Sam Davies, 22 Rhyss Webb, 23 Tom Grabham

Date: Saturday, March 2
Kick-off: 18:30
Venue: Thomond Park
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
Assistant referees: Mark Patton, Eanna O'Dowd (IRFU)
Television match official: Dermot Moloney (IRFU)

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Pool 5
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PosTeamPPts
1Racing Metro Paris28
2Northampton25
3Ospreys25
4Treviso20