Saturday 19 January 2019

Weak Ospreys selection means Carbery and Co get a free shot

Johann Van Graan chats with Peter O’Mahony and Joey Carbery in training ahead of Munster’s clash with Ospreys tonight at Irish Independent Park. Photo: Sportsfile
Johann Van Graan chats with Peter O’Mahony and Joey Carbery in training ahead of Munster’s clash with Ospreys tonight at Irish Independent Park. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Johann Van Graan has ensured that the dignitaries in the stand will get a glimpse of stardust on the new Irish Independent Park pitch tonight. Ospreys didn't get the memo.

The Cork venue rarely gets the big games, but on paper this looked like a meaty early-season fixture for the locals to get behind. Then Allen Clarke left Alun-Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and George North in Wales.

So, Joey Carbery and Tadhg Beirne get their first starts as Peter O'Mahony and Chris Cloete return to action in what is sure to be a home win.

The Irish provinces can't complain about the opposition resting players, but fans on both sides of the Irish Sea can justifiably feel short-changed.

Not that Munster will worry too much if they can right the wrongs of last week's first-half malfunction in Glasgow.


It was the kind of performance that rarely happens on O'Mahony's watch and last summer's Ireland captain will look to set the tone early with his customary edge on a rare appearance on home soil.

Carbery will be the centre of attention on the new 3G surface, coming into the team for his first start after two decent performances off the bench.

Notably, JJ Hanrahan drops out of the squad altogether as Ian Keatley comes on to the bench.

With Billy Holland out injured and Jean Kleyn on the bench, Beirne comes into the second-row alongside Darren O'Shea in a pack that features seven new faces after being dominated last week.

Andrew Conway is another to make a seasonal debut and interestingly he comes on to the wing as new recruit Mike Haley hangs on to the No 15 shirt.

Conference rivals Ospreys make 12 changes to a side that started the season with two wins and former Ireland U-20s and Ulster assistant coach Clarke says the alterations are merited.

But with so much star power back in Wales, the chances of a third victory in a row has receded greatly for the Swansea-based region.

Improving the intensity is the starting point for a Munster team who were blown away in Glasgow.

Yet there is much more for them to get better at, not least their composure in attack and their handling under pressure, which let them down at important moments last weekend.

Beirne is adapting to a new system, but his combination with Cloete and O'Mahony at the breakdown could be lethal.

If they can dominate that area in defence and attack, then they will have a big platform from which to attack.

That is where Carbery comes in. On the hard track, he can stamp his authority on the game and bring the backline threats around him into the equation.

With Conor Murray and Neil Cronin sidelined and Alby Mathewson still awaiting his work permit, Duncan Williams gets a chance to build on a promising display in Scotland and the quality of his service to Carbery will be key. If they get their attitude right from the off, they should be far too strong for the Ospreys.

Verdict: Munster

Munster - M Haley; A Conway, S Arnold, D Goggin, D Sweetnam; J Carbery, D Williams; J Cronin, R Marshall, S Archer; T Beirne, D O'Shea; P O'Mahony (capt), C Cloete, A Botha. Reps: M Sherry, D Kilcoyne, J Ryan, J Kleyn, T O'Donnell, J Hart, I Keatley, J Taute.

Ospreys- J Hook; T Williams, J Thomas, C Allen, L Morgan; S Davies, T Habberfield; R Jones, S Baldwin, T Botha; G Nemsadze, A Beard; O Cracknell (capt), M Morris, S Cross. Reps: I Phillips, N Smith, A Jeffries, J Ratti, G Volpi, M Aubrey, T Thomas-Wheeler, H Dirksen.

Ref - S Berry (South Africa)

Munster v Ospreys,

Live, eir Sport, 7.35

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