All to play for as Munster push for fourth

Munster coach Rob Penney is expecting fireworks at Thomond Park tonight when his side battle for a RaboDirect Pro12 top four spot against Glasgow Warriors.

Munster, still outside the play-off spot and four points behind third placed Glasgow, need the victory to reel in the Scottish visitors.

Just a week away from a must-win Heineken Cup clash with Saracens, Munster have everything to play for and Penney admits emotions could be high as he welcomes back a group of international players to his squad.

“I’d expect emotions to be up and desperation to be there for two willing sides capable of playing well, getting into each other. I’d expect it to be a really robust, physical, challenging match.”

There was huge disappointment in Cork last Sunday following a galling 6-13 defeat to Llanelli Scarlets .But Penney doesn’t expect it to be any easier tonight. He does hope, however, the weather conditions will be kinder.

Munster will have a lot more fire-power at their disposal, but Penney is aware Glasgow will travel with similar experience following the autumn internationals.

“I think they [Glasgow] are tenacious at the break down, have a good set piece and are a very good defence. They may not always play a lot of rugby, but they play with a lot of passion and willingness. If you take them a bit under prepared or if you are a bit blase about your approach you are going to get stung.”

Disappointment at losing to Scarlets was, admitted Penney, an understatement.

“We have got a wee trait of playing good footie, applying pressure and not capitalising on those opportunities. I don’t think there’ll be a hangover, but as a group we have got to be conscious we are giving reassuring and positive messages to our group. If we keep going with the tenacity and the attitude that we’ve got and we have a bit more ruthlessness, then positive results are going to come.”

Part of Penney’s reliance tonight will be that returning internationals; Keith Earls, Simon Zebo, Ronan O’Gara, Donnacha Ryan, Donncha O’Callaghan and Dave Kilcoyne should add experience to the side.

They will be joined by James Coughlan and that is a timely return for one of Munster’s most underestimated players after several weeks out of action. It will be interesting to see how CJ Stander, the new South African signing, gets on in his first start alongside Coughlan and Tommy O’Donnell.

Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend is also happy to welcome back a number of players from the Scottish camp, including skipper Ali Kellock.

“I’m delighted we can put out a strong side and we will be doing everything we can to come back from Ireland with that elusive positive result.”

MUNSTER: F Jones; D Howlett (captain), K Earls, J Downey, S Zebo; R O’Gara, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, BJ Botha; D O’Callaghan, D Ryan; CJ Stander, T O’Donnell, J Coughlan.

Replacements: D Varley, W du Preez, S Archer, B Holland, P Butler, P Stringer, I Keatley, C Laulala.

GLASGOW WARRIORS: P Murchie, S Lamont, S Hogg, P Home, Dth Van Der Merwe, D Weir, H Pyrgos, R Grant, D Hall, M Cusack, T Swinson, A Kellock (captain), R Harley, R Wilson, J Barclay.

Replacements: P MacArthur, M Low, G Reid, J Strauss, J Eddie, N Matawalu, S Wight, B McGuigan.


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