Peter O’Mahony returns to captain Munster in tonight’s Guinness Pro12 clash with Glasgow Warriors on their 4G pitch at Scotstoun and is joined in the back-row by Tommy O’Donnell who makes his 100th appearance for the province.
Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus is resting a group of international players including Simon Zebo, Keith Earls, and CJ Stander but is still putting out a formidable looking 23-man squad for what promises to be a serious test of a side seeking a sixth successive victory. In contrast, Glasgow head coach Gregor Townsend welcomes back 10 Scottish internationals, an indication of the importance he places on this fixture.
Erasmus makes six changes from the side that strolled to a 46-3 win over Treviso last week. Niall Scannell starts at hooker, South African Jean Kleyn and Billy Holland team up in the second row, and O’Mahony returns to the back-row for Robin Copeland, who moves to the bench where he is joined by Donnacha Ryan and another South African, the powerfully built loose head prop Thomas du Toit.
Tyler Bleyendaal is again rested, making way for the return of Ian Keatley at out-half, while Rory Scannell resumes in the centre in place of Sammy Arnold. The emotional scenes associated with the Champions Cup clash of the teams in October just a few days after the tragic passing of Anthony Foley won’t dissipate for a long time but will be largely to the back of the minds of those involved tonight. Munster won that day by 38-17 playing with 14 men for 60 minutes.
This latest meeting of the sides presents a completely different scenario with Glasgow all out to avenge that outcome and leaving Munster to anticipate something of a backlash tonight.
“The previous game was at home and it was after a very emotional few days,” says Erasmus.
“It’s a totally different set up playing them away with some international players gone and some coming back into the mix. Our team was mixing and matching in the last four weeks and I guess it’s the same for them. The last time we played them, they had just smashed Leinster by 40 points so that’s how difficult they will be at home. About 14 or 15 of their players played for Scotland last weekend so it’s a big challenge.”
Townsend again proved himself a class act in the way he handled the events surrounding the Champions Cup match, not least in the way he accepted the massive defeat suffered by his side, who seemed seriously overcome by the emotional atmosphere.
More recently, Glasgow have looked anything but warriors though losing 22-5 to Ospreys at home and 27-3 away to the Scarlets but they were hamstrung in those matches by the demands made on their squad by the national side.
“There’s a lot of determination to do a better job than the last time we played Munster and we’ve worked on what we need to do,” said Townsend. “Every game is different and there’s a lot of detail that comes out each week about what we can work on. The relevant thing for this week is that Ospreys and Munster play a similar defensive structure, so it means we can tweak things that didn’t quite work last week.”
P Murchie; R Hughes, N Grigg, M Bennett, T Seymour; P Horne, A Price; G Reid, F Brown, S Puafisi, T Swinson, R Harlow, J Strauss, C Fusaro, R Wilson (c).
C Flynn, A Allan, D Rap, R McAlpine, L Haupeakui, N Kenatalo, L Jones, R Clegg.
A Conway; D Sweetnam, J Taute, R Scannell, R O’Mahony; I Keatley, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan, J Kleyn, B Holland, P O’Mahony capt, T O’Donnell, J O’Donoghue.
R Marshall, T du Toit, S Archer, D Ryan, R Copeland, Te Aihe Toma, D Goggin, A Wootton.
Nigel Owens (Wales).
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