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Davies hell-bent on scalping Munster

A MUNSTER season perilously teetering on the brink of relative failure demands resuscitation.

Scarlets are normally the type of amenable opposition to obediently oblige.

Since Declan Kidney's Heineken Cup champions were dethroned in the 2007 quarter-final at Stradey Park, Munster have reeled off an impressive sequence of 14 successive wins against a West Wales outfit who have seemed ever more deferential with each setback.

"We need to crack Munster and get a result," declared coach Nigel Davies, asserting his side's desperate need to shake the psychological burden created by the dismal five-year run.

"It is a huge fixture for us and it is going to be international intensity because that is what Munster bring.

"It has been almost impossible for us to beat them, so regardless of what we can and can't do this year, it is important we put a marker down for the next couple of years.

"It's partly a mental problem. If you look at the games we have won this season, a lot have come against the teams we have beaten in the past, but the ones we have lost have been against teams we've struggled against before.

"So psychologically it is huge and a barrier we have to overcome. That is the challenge for us more than anything else.

"In both Heineken Cup games this season we put ourselves in a position where we could have won, but we didn't keep the intensity up against them.

"We know what they are. What they do is pretty basic, but they do it at a high level of intensity and they keep coming at you.

"It is the old adage, when you fight with the bear, you stop when the bear stops, not when you feel tired.

"That is what you have to do with a team like Munster, you have got to keep going at them and keep going at them because they will keep coming at you."

If anything, Munster have been a cuddly bear more often than not this term and, given the uncertainty at coaching level, this could be a real opportunity for the in-form Welsh side to launch a lightning strike for the play-offs.


Munster academy prop David Kilcoyne (pictured below) will make his full debut, replacing the hapless Marcus Horan. Kilcoyne's only other involvement at this level was back in December when he came off the bench late on against Connacht.

Always highly regarded, he produced a superb performance when Munster 'A' defeated the much vaunted Leinster 'A' side in the British and Irish Cup semi-final a fortnight ago, but he will have his work cut out against the formidable chunk of beef that incorporates Deacon Manu.

McGahan's one backline change from the side that lacked authority in squeezing past Glasgow is at scrum-half, with Conor Murray coming in for London Irish-bound Tomas O'Leary.

As expected, Paul O'Connell returns to partner the imminently retiring Mick O'Driscoll. The back-row is unchanged, but the experience of BJ Botha -- in for Stephen Archer -- counters the presence of a greenhorn on the loosehead side.

Scarlets welcome back Ireland's nemesis George North, but his return is offset by the absence of Jonathan Davies, who was ruled out this week out with a groin injury.

Interestingly, Wasps-bound Stephen Jones will again deputise at second five-eighth for the expansive Welsh.

Alongside Jones is bright young centre talent Adam Warren, who put in some eye-catching performances in the early part of the season.

Matthew Rees takes the reins as captain once again and Manu returns from a spell out with concussion, with young prop Rhodri Jones switching back to loosehead for what is expected to be a big physical battle up front.

Scarlets' late play-off charge has seen them win four of their last five matches in the Pro12; their only home defeat in the tournament this season was to table-topping Leinster in round four.

Munster's only defeat in their last five away games was the shock loss in Aironi last month, but they have won their last four matches against Welsh regions in all competitions, and on six of their last seven visits to Wales.

Munster's knockout hopes still have a get-out clause against Ulster in a fortnight; Scarlets are gone if they don't win. That greater desire could propel them to victory.

Verdict: Scarlets

Scarlets -- L Williams; G North, A Warren, S Jones, S Lamont; R Priestland, G Davies; R Jones, M Rees (capt), D Manu, S Timani, D Day, A Shingler, J Turnbull, B Morgan. Reps: E Phillips, P John, S Gardiner, M Gilbert, K Murphy, T Knoyle, J Williams, V Iongi.

Munster -- F Jones; L O'Dea, J Murphy, L Mafi, S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, BJ Botha; M O'Driscoll, P O'Connell (capt); D Ryan, T O'Donnell, P O'Mahony. Reps: D Varley, W du Preez, S Archer, Donncha O'Callaghan, P Butler, T O'Leary, S Deasy, I Dineen.

Ref -- A Rolland (Ireland)

Scarlets v Munster

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Irish Independent