Planet Rugby

Preview: Munster v Ospreys

01st November 2013 10:25

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Damien Varley Munster

Captain: Damian Varley (l)

Richard Fussell replaces Dan Biggar at full-back for the Ospreys visit to Munster on Saturday in the RaboDirect Pro12.

Matthew Morgan continues in the fly-half jersey as Aisea Natoga starts on the right wing.

Jonathan Spratt captains the side from outside centre in the absence of Alun Wyn Jones.

"This is without doubt a huge game for us. With 13 of our squad on international duty, the team will have a different dynamic to what supporters are perhaps used to," said Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy.

"The squad have been working hard this week and we as coaches are really pleased with the effort and in particular, the willingness to learn that the squad's younger players have shown at training. Llandarcy has been an exciting place to be this week and everyone is looking forward to the challenge of Thomond Park.

"It's never an easy place to go to, Munster have an enviable history at home and while we are proud of the fact that we are the only non Irish team to beat Munster there in the Rabo since 2006, its going to be a tough match. They are coming into the game after some very impressive performances and have only lost twice so far this season."

"While they are looking strong, we are also going into the game off the back of our victory against the Dragons last week. We are still working towards the full performance the result has given the squad confidence, we know what we have to do and I believe from the work put in this week that this group can deliver what we ask of them. We will go to Thomond Park knowing how strong we can be and hopefully we will do ourselves justice".

Meanwhile, Rob Penney has made eight changes to the Munster side that beat Glasgow last week.

Munster have been boosted by the return of Donncha O'Callaghan and James Coughlan from international duty for the top of the table clash and O'Callaghan starts while Coughlan is among the replacements.

Elsewhere in the forwards, Penney has named a completely different front-row as Dave Kilcoyne, Damien Varley and BJ Botha start with Dave Foley and Dave O'Callaghan also coming into the side. Both Foley and O'Callaghan have most recently been invovled in Munster's British and Irish Cup campaign. Varley captains the side for the second time this season.

In the backs, exciting winger Ronan O'Mahony keeps his place and starts in his first competitive game at Thomond Park.

Ian Keatley comes back in at out-half ahead of last week's man of the match JJ Hanrahan who moves to the replacements.

Duncan Williams starts at scrum-half and Felix Jones returns at full-back after a slight ankle sprain ruled him out of action last weekend, with Johne Murphy moving to the right wing in place of Andrew Conway who is suffering from bruised ribs.

The centre partnership of Ivan Dineen and Casey Laulala remains intact.

Corkman Duncan Casey takes his place on the bench and the hooker will be hopeful of making his first league appearance for Munster. James Downey was not considered due to a back spasm.

Form: Munster returned to the top of the RaboDirect PRO12 table following their toppling of previous leaders Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun on Saturday. The Munstermen's only loss in their last seven fixtures in the competition came in Treviso in Round Three, whilst the only opponents from outside Ireland to have beaten Munster at Thomond Park in the tournament since October 2006 have been Ospreys - twice. Ospreys rose to second spot in the standings with their 40-17 bonus point victory over the Dragons at Liberty Stadium on Friday. The Welshmen have won only one of their last seven encounters with Irish provinces in all competitions: 43-26 at Connacht on 28th September. Ospreys are unbeaten in their last five fixtures against the Munstermen, since Munster were victorious 18-11 in the PRO12 play-off in May 2011.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Johne Murphy, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Ivan Dineen, 11 Ronan O'Mahony, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 CJ Stander. 7 Sean Dougall, 6 Dave O'Callaghan, 5 Dave Foley, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley (c), 1 David Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Duncan Casey, 17 James Cronin, 18 John Ryan, 19 Billy Holland, 20 James Coughlan, 21 Cathal Sheridan, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Cian Bohane.

Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Aisea Natoga, 13 Jonathan Spratt (c), 12 Andrew Bishop, 11 Ben John, 10 Matthew Morgan, 9 Tito Tibaldi, 8 Morgan Allen, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Joe Bearman, 5 James King, 4 Lloyd Peers, 3 Joe Rees, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Marc Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dwyer, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Dan Suter, 19 Rhodri Hughes, 20 Arthur Ellis, 21 Tom Habberfield, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Hanno Dirksen

Date: Saturday, November 2
Kick-off: 19:15
Venue: Thomond Park
Referee: Giuseppe Vivarini (Italy)
Assistant referees: Gary Conway, John Carvill (both Ireland)
Citing commissioner: Eddie Walsh (Ireland)
Television match offial: Jude Quinn (Ireland)

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