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URC, Quarterfinal: Teams and Prediction

PREVIEW: Munster is the defending champions and some great form late in the season saw them top the URC table. They face a tough task against Ospreys, who have performed admirably this season, at Thomond Park, Limerick on Friday.

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Munster ensured they ended the 18-round regular season at the URC summit by making it nine wins on the trot with a 29-24 bonus point victory over Ulster in Limerick.

Ospreys head coach Toby Booth says his side will be taking on the best team in the URC.

Booth’s side defied the odds to secure the final spot in the play-offs with a 33-29 bonus point victory over Cardiff after a succession of other results had gone their way over the weekend.

They are the first Welsh team to reach the knock-out stages since 2018, an achievement secured by winning 10 of their 18 league matches – double their tally from last season.

The last time Munster won ten in a row in the same season was when they were crowned league champions back in 2010/11.

The Munstermen have not lost to Welsh opposition since going down to the Dragons at Rodney Parade in September 2022. They have played the Ospreys in four previous URC play-off fixtures, with Munster having the edge by three wins to one.

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Ospreys head coach Booth is well aware of the challenge that lies ahead.

“They are the best team in the competition,” he said.

“I know Leinster would dispute that, but they have finished top, they have won what they have won and they are the defending champions. So, factually, it’s right.

“There’s a reason one plays eight, but we are really looking forward to it. You would rather be in it than not.

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“We know it’s really difficult, but when it gets to knock-out rugby, it’s about who delivers on the day.

“You’ve got to deal with the occasion first and foremost and then you have to be right on it. As the stakes get higher, the need to execute becomes less forgiving.

“There are no second chances now and that makes it tough.”

Munster coach Graham Rowntree made three changes as they welcome back Antoine Frisch after a leg injury, while John Hodnett and Gavin Coombes are restored to the back row.

With Alex Nankivell ruled out and Rory Scannell suffering an ankle injury against Ulster last Saturday that ends his season, Frisch’s return is timely and he slots in beside Sean O’Brien, with the latter moving across to No.12.

Munster defence coach Denis Leamy said: “I think with knockout rugby there’s almost a turn of the page. You’ve got to understand it’s almost a different mentality, it’s a new challenge.

“The Ospreys are probably the most underrated team in the league. I think the expectation would be that we are favourites but these guys are a very, very strong team, and we’ve got to understand what we control is really important in terms of what we deliver.

“We’ve got to fire punches, we’ve got to be brave. We’ve got to go out and try and impose our game.

“We just can’t wait and see what the Ospreys are going to bring because they’re going to bring all of their quality and they have loads of it.”

Munster v Ospreys
(Thomond Park, Limerick – Kick-off: 19.35; 18.35 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Munster by 12 points

The teams:

Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Antoine Frisch, 12 Seán O’Brien, 11 Shane Daly, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 John Hodnett, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Tadhg Beirne (c), 4 RG Snyman, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Jeremy Loughman
Replacements: 16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 John Ryan, 18 Oli Jager, 19 Jack O’Donoghue, 20 Alex Kendellen, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Tony Butler, 23 Mike Haley

Ospreys: 15 Max Nagy, 14 Luke Morgan, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Keelan Giles, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Justin Tipuric (captain), 6 Jac Morgan, 5 Huw Sutton, 4 James Ratti, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Dewi Lake, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Rhys Henry, 19 Victor Sekekete, 20 Morgan Morse, 21 Luke Davies, 22 Luke Scully, 23 Harri Houston.

Referee: Hollie Davidson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Andrea Piardi (Italy) and Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)

Additional source @URC

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