Preview: Munster v Ospreys

Date published: November 3 2016

Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has made four changes for their PRO12 clash with second placed Ospreys at Irish Independent Park.

Stephen Archer comes in to join Dave Kilcoyne and Niall Scannell in the front-row while Darren O'Shea and Robin Copeland form a new partnership in the second-row.

There is no change in the back-row with captain Peter O'Mahony, Tommy O'Donnell and Jack O'Donoghue all remaining in situ.

The final change is seen in the half-backs where Tyler Bleyendaal returns to partner Duncan Williams. 

Try scorers against Ulster, Rory Scannell and Jaco Taute, again take charge of midfield with a back three of Ronan O'Mahony, Darren Sweetnam and Andrew Conway completing the starting XV.

Linking up with the squad this week, new signing Rhys Marshall is named in his first matchday squad. The hooker joins from Super Rugby side the Chiefs after penning a three-year deal that will see him stay with the province until June 2019.

Meanwhile, Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy is without Nicky Smith, Scott Baldwin, Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones, Rory Thornton, Dan Baker, James King, Dan Lydiate, Justin Tipuric, Rhys Webb, Dan Biggar and Sam Davies, who are all on international duty.

Rob McCusker makes his first Ospreys start in the back-row and is joined by Olly Cracknell and Joe Bearman, with Tom Habberfield and Josh Matavesi the half-back combination.

Tyler Ardron (thumb), Hanno Dirksen (knee), Jeff Hassler (Achilles) and Owen Watkin (knee) are all ruled out.

Form: Munster's only defeat in their last six fixtures in all competitions was 14-25 to Leinster at the Aviva Stadium in the PRO12 on October 8. The Munstermen have lost just twice at home since mid-January with both encounters being in Cork, to Ospreys and Cardiff Blues. Ospreys have won their last four matches in all tournaments since their 7-9 reversal in Ulster in round 5 of the PRO12. The Welshmen have won just two of their last dozen encounters against Irish provinces since May 2015. The last six meetings between the two sides have been evenly split with three wins apiece, whilst Ospreys have lost on just two of their last six visits to Munster.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Andrew Conway, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Ronan O'Mahony, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 Jack O'Donoghue, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Peter O'Mahony (c), 5 Robin Copeland, 4 Darren O'Shea, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Peter McCabe, 18 Brian Scott, 19 John Madigan, 20 Conor Oliver, 21 Abrie Griesel, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Alex Wootton

Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Keelan Giles, 13 Ben John, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Eli Walker, 10 Josh Matavesi, 9 Tom Habberfield (c), 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Olly Cracknell, 6 Rob McCusker, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Paul James
Replacements: 16 Hugh Gustafson, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Rhodri Jones, 20 Scott Otten, 21 Brendon Leonard, 22 Jonathan Spratt, 23 Dafydd Howells

Date: Friday, November 4 
Venue: Irish Independent Park
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy) 
Assistant Referees: Stefano Pennè (Italy), Oisin Quinn (Ireland)
TMO: Carlo Damasco (Italy)