Planet Rugby

Preview: Munster v Scarlets

20th December 2013 11:26

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Try hero: JJ Hanrahan

Scarlets head coach Simon Easterby has made nine changes to the side that lost to Clermont for Saturday's Pro12 trip to Munster.

Scarlets and Wales international Liam Williams and centre Gareth Maule are the only remaining backs for the Musgrave Park clash, with Williams moving from full-back to the wing. Gareth Owen returns to full-back with Aled Thomas replacing Rhys Priestland at fly-half and young international Rhodri Williams coming in at scrum-half.

Ken Owens retains his place at hooker with Rob Evans and Jacobie Adriaanse making up the front row in place of Phil John and Samson Lee.

George Earle is replaced at second-row by Richard Kelly with the back row of Josh Turnbull, John Barclay and Rob McCusker remaining unchanged from last weekend's campaign.

Club captain McCusker will be at the helm as the much-changed side face their last challenge ahead of the Boxing Day derby.

Meanwhile, Gerhard van den Heever will make his home debut and Duncan Casey will start his first competitive Munster game.

The pair come into the side as head coach Rob Penney makes 11 changes to the team that beat Perpignan in France last weekend.

Three of the players involved in the winning try at Stade Aime Giral - Denis Hurley, Tommy O'Donnell and JJ Hanrahan - all come into the first XV with Billy Holland returning as captain.

Casey Laulala maintains his place in the centres with Ivan Dineen coming into the side to partner the former New Zealand international.

Andrew Conway will make his fifth start for the province on the left wing after recovering from a blow to the knee sustained against Cardiff Blues.

South African van den Heever takes his place on the opposite wing for his second start since signing from Western Province with Denis Hurley at full-back.

Cathal Sheridan retains his place at scrum-half after impressing last weekend with match-winner Hanrahan at fly-half.

BJ Botha is the only survivor from last week's front-row with Dave Kilcoyne and Duncan Casey coming into the side.

It will be Shannon man Casey's first start for Munster following his substitute appearance against Perpignan at Thomond Park two weeks ago.

Donnacha Ryan keeps his place in the second-row alongside captain Billy Holland who makes his return to the side.

Rob Penney has gone for an exciting back-row combination with Dave O'Callaghan, Tommy O'Donnell and CJ Stander all named in the starting XV.

Cork Con fly-half Johnny Holland is amongst the replacements and will be hoping to earn his second Munster cap after his appearance off the bench against Cardiff Blues.

Form: Munster have won their last seven matches in all tournaments since their 23-29 defeat to Edinburgh at Murrayfield in the Heineken Cup on the 12th October.

The Munstermen top the Pro12 table courtesy of suffering only one reversal so far this season: 19-29 at Treviso in round 3. Munster have won all four matches they have played against Welsh Regions this season.

Scarlets only win in their last five matches in all tournaments was 24-21 at Connacht in round 8 of the Pro12. That victory in Galway represents the Welshmen's only success on the road in any competition since November 2012.

Munster won fourteen successive games against the Scarlets between April 2007 and December 2011, but since then are winless in their last three fixtures against the Welshmen. Scarlets won 13-6 when they visited Musgrave Park last season.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Ivan Dineen, 11 Andrew Conway, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Cathal Sheridan, 8 Tommy O'Donnell, 7 CJ Stander, 6 Dave O'Callaghan, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Billy Holland (c), 3 BJ Botha, 2 Duncan Casey, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 James Cronin, 18 John Ryan, 19 Ian Nagle, 20 Barry O'Mahony, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Johnny Holland, 23 Ronan O'Mahony

Scarlets: 15 Gareth Owen, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Kristian Phillips, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Rob McCusker (c), 7 John Barclay, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Richard Kelly, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Ken Ownes, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Shaun Hopkins, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Johan Snyman, 20 Dan Thomas, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Mike Poole

Date: Saturday 21st December
Venue: Musgrave Park
Kick-off: 1915 (local and GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wal)
Assistant referees: David Wilkinson, Michael Black (both Ire)
TMO: Dermot Moloney (Ire)

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