The last time Munster travelled to Wales without a host of front-liners, they destroyed the Scarlets to silence those who believed Johann van Graan’s men were in for tough day.
That was two weeks ago, and as Munster return to Wales this evening to take on the Ospreys, although their team includes several key men, it is again far from full strength.
Van Graan’s intention was always to heavily rotate his squad for this first block of five games before taking stock over the break.
Andrew Conway, Craig Casey, Tadhg Beirne and Peter O’Mahony will hope to come through unscathed before linking up with Ireland next week, while so too will Gavin Coombes and the returning Conor Murray, who both start on the bench in Swansea. For all of the international class on show, all eyes will be on Jack Crowley, as the exciting young out-half makes his long-awaited first start for Munster.
Having turned down on offer from Ronan O’Gara to join La Rochelle, Crowley has had to bide his time, but the 21-year-old is primed to make the most of his opportunity.
The Bandon man lit up last year’s U-20s Six Nations before it was called to a halt, with his talent evident from a long way out.
For Van Graan, who makes eight changes to the team that just about saw off Connacht last weekend, it’s all about managing his resources.
“We play every game to win and in terms of certain games that people reported on with ‘an understrength team’, we certainly didn’t see it that way. As coaches we select every team to win and we as a squad believe it doesn’t matter which player plays, we’ve all got to perform at the weekend,” the Munster head coach said.
Beirne’s selection on the blindside is interesting, and with O’Mahony moving to the openside, Andy Farrell will be watching on with keen interest.
Damian de Allende will provide plenty of oomph from the bench before he departs again for international duty with South Africa.
Birr native Jack Regan will be hoping for something similar, as the former Ulster lock is set to make his Ospreys debut later on.
The Welsh side should still be in the game at that point, but Munster are likely to have too much quality.
Ospreys – M Nagy; A Cuthbert, O Watkin, K Williams, M Protheroe; S Meyler, R Webb (capt); N Smith, E Taione, T Botha; B Davies, R Davies; S Cross, J Morgan, E Roots. Reps: I Phillips, G Thomas, R Henry, J Regan, M Morris, R Morgan, J Hawkins, D Evans.
Munster – M Gallagher; A Conway, L Coombes, D Goggin, S Daly; J Crowley, C Casey; J Loughman, N Scannell, J Ryan; J Kleyn, F Wycherley; T Beirne, P O’Mahony (capt), J O’Donoghue. Reps: K O’Byrne, J Wycherley, K Knox, G Coombes, J Hodnett, C Murray, B Healy, D de Allende.
REF: H Davidson (Scotland)
Ospreys v Munster,
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