Thomond Park set for Munster – Ospreys Battle

Munster and Ospreys do battle for  PRO12 final spot.

This is the third time the sides have met in the  semi-finals at Thomond Park, and Munster will look to carry on their table-topping form into the game.

Ospreys finished fourth in the league, boasting 14 victories which was made all the more impressive with the region blooding some young and exciting talent.

The Welshmen last lifted the PRO12 trophy in 2012 with a dramatic 31-30 victory against Leinster, in what was also head coach Steve Tandy’s first season in charge.

Ospreys were hoping to becoming the first team to win a semi final on the road in this competition but after Scarlets superb win again Leinster at the RDS last evening, Ospreys will be looking to make the final an all Welsh affair.

Four-time winners Ospreys have suffered a dip in form in recent months but have been missing some key players that are back to give them a boost ahead of the game.

New Zealand-bound skipper Alun Wyn Jones was never going to sit this one out and Ospreys possess enough quality in their ranks to cause an upset.

Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus has made 12 changes from the side that defeated Connacht, with Billy Holland, Keith Earls and Andrew Conway the only players retained from that game.

Donnacha Ryan and Francis Saili both start at Thomond Park for the final time as they’re welcomed back into the side, Rory Scannell comes back into the midfield to partner Saili.

Simon Zebo comes in at fullback and Conor Murray and Tyler Bleyendaal resume their half-back partnership, Murray is making his 99th appearance for Munster on Saturday.

The front row is made up by Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and John Ryan – while the back row includes captain Peter O’Mahony, Tommy O’Donnell and CJ Stander at No.8

Ospreys have selected a back three made up of Dan Evans at fullback, Tom Habberfield on one wing and top try scorer Keelan Giles occupying the other.

Kieron Fonotia and Ashley Beck partner up in the centres and the visitors are able to boast a Lions half-back pairing of Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb.

James King starts at No.8 with Justin Tipuric at openside and Sam Underhill completing the back row.

Alun Wyn Jones captains the side alongside Bradley Davies in the engine room, and Nicky Smith, Scott Baldwin and Rhodri Jones form the front row.

Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy admitted that his side face a tough task in Limerick, but is pleased to have his senior players back and is targeting a huge effort.

“It’s good that we can welcome back one or two senior players who can provide different kinds of leadership in the build-up and once the whistle goes, but we aren’t getting ahead of ourselves,” said Tandy.

“If we are going to deliver a winning performance on Saturday it will have to be a huge team effort, from everyone in the squad, not just the ones with 1-23 on their backs.

“It’ll be tough, no doubt about it, but these are the games we want to be involved in. They are the ones that matter and it’s what we’ve been working towards since day one of pre-season 11 months ago.

“We want to make that effort, all that hard work, count for something and we can’t wait to get started.”

Meanwhile Munster Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus is pleased to be able to select from a healthy squad.

“The only thing that we’d be a little bit concerned about is match fitness, or sharpness, of Conor and Tyler Bleyendaal together. Rory Scannell hasn’t been playing a lot of the last few weeks,” said Erasmus.

“So it’s nice to have a fit squad. I won’t moan about that.

“The team selection is more a bit of having to get it spot on because we are playing against a team that are hitting form at the right time.”

Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:

Played 31, Munster won 15, Ospreys won 15 and 1 game drawn

At Thomond Park, 6.15pm. Live on Sky Sports/TG4/S4C

Referee: Luke Pearce (RFU, 2nd competition game)
Assistant Referees: Matthew O’Grady, Wayne Falla (both RFU)
Citing Commissioner: Maurizio Vancini (FIR)
TMO: Graham Hughes (RFU)

 

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