Tuesday 25 July 2017

Munster's fear of failure can drive them into PRO12 final

Munster boss Rassie Erasmus. Photo: Sportsfile
Munster boss Rassie Erasmus. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

When the Ospreys last came to Thomond Park two years ago, they left wondering what might have been as Munster crept their way into the Guinness PRO12 final.

While the landscape has very much changed down south these days, the trophy cabinet still hasn't been added to since 2011.

Rassie Erasmus' first season has been a baptism of fire and even though there were some harsh lessons learned along the way, particularly in Europe, the South African has Munster primed to end their trophy drought.

Munster have beaten the Ospreys twice already this season but they have yet to play the Welshmen when they are fully locked and loaded. The return of Alun Wyn Jones is as much of a boost to the visitors as Conor Murray's return to full fitness is for Munster.

With seven Lions starting at Thomond Park this afternoon, there are ferocious match-ups all over the pitch.

And to add to that, stalwart Donnacha Ryan will play for Munster at the famous Limerick venue for a final time.

"We have no reason not to be focused and to underestimate this," Erasmus insisted.

"We could say before Europe that we hadn't played Saracens, 'Let's see how far we can go.' Although we feel the same, we actually write these names down on a piece of paper and we can say, 'We've played all of these teams twice now, so you should know what to expect'.

Replicate

"That doesn't make it easier but I think we have a realistic view of saying 'We have been here, we have felt this and now we must go and try to replicate what we did against Toulouse'. But then French teams are a little bit different to play-off games or any of the teams we play against in the PRO12.

"It's a difficult one. I just know we will be focused and it will be a hell of a good Ospreys team pitching up here."

Francis Saili is another who will bid farewell to Thomond Park as he heads for the exit door. He gets the nod today ahead of Jaco Taute, who has signed a new two-year deal with the province.

For all the strides that Munster have made this season, it will count for precious little if they don't have a trophy to show for it next weekend.

Driven by that fear of again falling short, Munster will be quietly confident of sending the Ospreys packing with a similar semi-final defeat to the one they suffered in 2015.

Verdict: Munster

Munster - S Zebo; A Conway, F Saili, R Scannell, K Earls; T Bleyendaal, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan; D Ryan, B Holland; P O'Mahony (capt), T O'Donnell, CJ Stander. Reps: R Marshall, J Cronin, S Archer, J Deysel, J O'Donoghue, D Williams, I Keatley, J Taute.

Ospreys - D Evans; K Giles, K Fonotia, A Beck, T Habberfield; D Biggar, R Webb; N Smith, S Baldwin, R Jones; B Davies, AW Jones (capt); S Underhill, J Tipuric, J King. Reps: S Otten, P James, D Suter, L Ashley, O Cracknell, B Leonard, S Davies, J Matavesi.

REF - L Pearce (England)

Munster v Ospreys,

Live,Sky Sports/TG4, 6.15

Irish Independent

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