Munster's hot momentum will be tested by Scarlets
Munster's momentum will be challenged severely today in West Wales; a remarkable sequence of five away wins in all competitions awaits but Scarlets might have finally hit form.
Their fifth of eight bonus-point wins in the league came against the Cheetahs last weekend and another win today will catapult them back into the play-off and European slots despite a horrendous, injury-afflicted campaign.
Munster are boosted by the repatriation of John Ryan from Ireland duty, despite his impressive bow from the bench in Rome. But man of the match last week against Ospreys, Tadhg Beirne, is a notable absentee, with Joe Schmidt likely to include him on the bench next Sunday against France if Iain Henderson is preferred ahead of him to partner James Ryan.
Beirne’s absence is tempered by the recall of Jean Kleyn, who has recovered from the illness which forced him out of last week’s win, while Conor Oliver comes into the back-row as Johann van Graan makes seven changes.
Bill Johnston and Alby Mathewson form an exciting new-look pairing at half-back while 25-year-old Rory Scannell becomes the youngest ever player to reach a century of appearances for the province. Ronan O’Mahony comes in on the right wing.
Scarlets can call on five of their Welsh internationals for the clash with Leigh Halfpenny, continuing his rehabilitation after a worryingly lengthy spell sidelined with post-concussion issues, a notable inclusion at full-back.
Wyn Jones and Ryan Elias all named to start while Rhys Patchell and Steff Evans are among the replacements.
“We are playing against a quality side that have been playing exceptional rugby on their home turf over the last two seasons,” says Van Graan. “They have already beaten the European and PRO14 champions at home. They have good coaching staff and some exceptional players.”
Scarlets – L Halfpenny; J McNicholl, K Fonotia (capt), P Asquith, Ioan Nicholas; D Jones, K Hardy; W Jones, R Elias, W Kruger, J Helps, L Rawlins, J Macleod, D Davis, U Cassiem. Reps: M Jones, P Price, J Sebastian, T Price, T Phillips, S Hidalgo-Clyne, R Patchell, S Evans.
Munster – M Haley; R O’Mahony, D Goggin, R Scannell, D Sweetnam; B Johnston, A Mathewson; J Loughman, R Marshall, J Ryan, J Kleyn, B Holland (capt), F Wycherley, C Oliver, A Botha. Reps: K O’Byrne, L O’Connor, S Archer, D O’Shea, J O’Donoghue, N Cronin, T Bleyendaal, J Taute.
Ref – M Adamson (SRU)
Scarlets v Munster, Live, TG4 & eir Sport, 5.0