Wednesday 26 April 2017

McGahan talks up high-flying Ospreys

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

IT lacks the big names of some of the massive clashes between these two heavyweights in recent years, but the league-leading Ospreys visit second-placed Munster with intent tonight.

The Welsh region are the only team left in the league with a 100pc record and that will be put severely to the test by a home side smarting from last week's first defeat away to Edinburgh last weekend.

The champions make eight changes to their team, with the impressive Peter O'Mahony leading the side once again.

Johne Murphy is back at full-back to accommodate the return of Doug Howlett, Danny Barnes is outside Lifeimi Mafi in the centre, while Duncan Williams gets the nod at scrum-half.

Up front, there is no room for John Hayes, who may have played his last game in red last weekend as Stephen Archer starts and BJ Botha comes on to the bench.

Dave O'Callaghan makes his first competitive start at blindside, while Billy Holland starts at second row. With Mike Sherry having headed for New Zealand, Sean Henry is on the bench.

Tony McGahan will be hoping for a better start to this game than they had last weekend when they were 16 points down before they got going in Scotland and he knows just how strong the Welsh visitors are.

"They're a very good side, a well coached side," he said. "They're leading the table and have played the best rugby of any side in the Pro12 this season.

"They have an exceptionally good group of young players that they've put a lot of faith in; not just for this block of games but for the rest of the year. They're always well prepared. We're expecting a very challenging game."

Connacht tested the Ospreys' reserves last week and left Wales with a bonus point and Munster are still strong, despite their World Cup participants' absence.

The leaders have already beaten all the other Irish provinces this season and with the likes of Barry Davies, Andrew Bishop, Dan Biggar and Justin Tipuric among their number, they are in good nick, despite missing their own players who took on Ireland this morning.

Prop Cai Griffiths says there is no room for respecting Munster's reputation in Limerick.

"We don't put any teams on a pedestal," he said. "It's going to be hard wherever you go. Whether it's Glasgow or Connacht, everywhere is tough, so we won't put Munster on a pedestal.

"We know what they're going to bring, especially in the pack. We know it will be hard with their reputation and the crowd turning against us. Hopefully, we can bring more and get a good win out there. It's not easy whether you've won no games or five on the bounce, it's still a tough place to go to."

Munster will be hoping he's right, but this one should be tight.

Verdict: Munster.

MUNSTER -- J Murphy; D Howlett, D Barnes, L Mafi, D Hurley; I Keatley, D Williams; W du Preez, D Fogarty, S Archer; B Holland, M O'Driscoll; D O'Callaghan, N Ronan, P O'Mahony (Capt). Reps: S Henry, M Horan, BJ Botha, I Nagle, T O'Donnell, P Stringer, S Deady, S Zebo.

OSPREY -- B Davies; H Dirksen, T Isaacs, A Bishop, R Fussell; D Biggar, R Webb; D Jones, R Hibbard, C Griffiths; I Gough, I Evans; J Bearman, J Tipuric (Capt), J Thomas. Reps: M Davies, A Jarvis, J Rees, T Smith, J King, M Morgan, S Parker, K Phillips.

REF -- J Jones (WRU).

Munster v Ospreys,

Live, RTE2, 7.30

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