PREVIEW: Munster v Ospreys

Fri, 19 May 2017 07:28
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PRO12 SEMIFINAL: Two of the most storied teams in the Pro12 Championship meet for the third time in the Pro12 semifinals at Thomond Park.

Munster will be looking to join their opponents Ospreys on a total of four titles. 

The men in red finished on top of the table after 22 rounds but despite some unexpected results for Ospreys, they possess plenty of quality in their ranks to spring an upset.
 
This is another fixture that will provide a showcase for some of the most elite talents in the Pro12 with seven British & Irish Lions involved between both teams. 

Munster will look to Conor Murray, Christiaan Stander and Peter O'Mahony to set the tone.

However, Ospreys will boast the calibre of Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb, Justin Tipuric and Alun Wyn Jones. 

This will be a titanic battle to rival the Six Nations clashes of Ireland and Wales.

It has been an emotional campaign for Munster, but they showed great mental resilience to finish top of the Pro12.

The death of head coach Anthony Foley in October was devastating for the team, but they stuck together and compiled an immense campaign.

Now they host Ospreys knowing they are just one win away from a return to the final, and a chance to win the Pro12 for the first time in six years.

Prediction: Munster have played in seven previous Pro12 semifinals, winning four, three of these have been at Thomond Park. The Munstemen's only defeat in the Pro12 since Round Six was 21-30 to Scarlets in Limerick at the end of February - Munster's only defeat at the venue in any competition since Christmas 2015. Ospreys only victory in the last five rounds of Pro12 was 24-10 at home to Ulster on 29 April. Ospreys have lost their last three away games in the Championship but have not lost four in a row on the road since season 2014/15. The Welshmen have won just once on their last six visits to an Irish Province: 32-11 against Connacht in Galway in Round Two this season. Munster have lost only one of their last five fixtures against Ospreys, 17-21 in Cork in February 2016 whilst Ospreys have not won in Limerick since September 2014. The two sides have met in three previous Pro12 semifinals with Munster having the edge by two wins to one. Munster are a different beast this season and they should take it by at least 15 points.

Teams:

Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14  Andrew Conway, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Tommy O'Donnell (captain), 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16, Rhys Marshall, 17 James Cronin, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Jack O’Donoghue, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Jaco Taute.

Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Keelan Giles, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Tom Habberfield, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 James King, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Underhill, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Rhodri Jones, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Paul James, 18 Dan Suter, 19 Lloyd Ashley, 20 Olly Cracknell, 21 Brendon Leonard, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Josh Matavesi.

Date: Saturday, May 20
Venue: Thomond Park, Limerick
Kick-off: 18.15 (17.15 GMT)
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Matthew O'Grady (England), Wayne Falla (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 22 September 2017
Free State Cheetahs v Pumas 15h30 Bloemfontein
Cheetahs v Leinster 18h00 Bloemfontein
Glasgow Warriors v Munster 18h35 Scotstoun Stadium
Ulster v Dragons 18h35 Kingspan Stadium
Gloucester v Worcester Warriors 18h45 Kingsholm
Treviso v Ospreys 19h35 Stadio Monigo
Sat, 23 September 2017
Sharks v Blue Bulls 13h00 Durban
Bath v Newcastle Falcons 14h00 Recreation Ground
Harlequins v Leicester Tigers 14h00 Twickenham Stoop
Saracens v Sale Sharks 14h00 Allianz Park
Connacht v Cardiff Blues 14h15 Sportsground
Western Province v Griquas 15h15 Newlands
Kings v Zebre 17h35 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Scarlets v Edinburgh 18h35 Parc y Scarlets
Sun, 24 September 2017
London Irish v Northampton Saints 13h00 Madejski Stadium
Exeter Chiefs v Wasps 14h00 Sandy Park
PRO14
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Pool A
Team P W D L Pts
Munster 3 3 0 0 14
Glasgow Warriors 3 3 0 0 13
Connacht 3 1 0 2 6
Ospreys 3 1 0 2 5
Cheetahs 3 1 0 2 5
Cardiff Blues 3 0 0 3 1
Zebre 3 0 0 3 1
Pool B
Team P W D L Pts
Leinster 3 3 0 0 15
Ulster 3 3 0 0 13
Scarlets 3 2 0 1 11
Edinburgh 3 2 0 1 10
Treviso 3 1 0 2 5
Dragons 3 1 0 2 4
Kings 3 0 0 3 0