Munster boss Anthony Foley has warned of the dangers posed by Ospreys half-backs Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar after the two teams were thrown together for the Guinness Pro12 semi-final in Thomond Park on Saturday.
Munster secured a home play-off at Ospreys’ expense after a dramatic final round of Pro12 action on Saturday which saw Foley’s side demolish the Newport Gwent Dragons 50-27 at Musgrave Park while the Welsh region came up against the stubborn resistance of Connacht in Galway and failed to score a bonus-point win having scored three early tries before edging victory 24-20.
Those events gave Foley plenty to think about ahead of today’s resumption of training following last night’s Guinness Pro12 Awards in Dublin, not least having lost home and away to Steve Tandy’s side in the regular season, including at the hands of Webb and Biggar in a 14-19 reverse in Limerick last September.
“We’ve faced them in Thomond Park and they did a number on us there,” Foley said last night. “We have massive respect for Webb and Biggar, they’re one of the form partnerships not alone in club rugby but in international rugby so that will form a new problem for us this weekend.”
Foley is less concerned at overcoming the disciplinary difficulties that beset his side on their losing visit to the Liberty Stadium in Swansea seven weeks ago, Munster’s only loss since being knocked out of Europe by Saracens in January.
Described by Foley as “the one blip” in Munster’s campaign since then, he added: “It was very disappointing. There were issues around getting to the ground and we arrived late and people didn’t go through the right routines. The stuff we could control was that we were eight penalties down to nil at half time and we were struggling in certain aspects
“But we’d have taken a lot from the eight penalties we gave up over there and made sure we’re in control of that because it’s something we can manage and in our control.
Foley was disappointed his team conceded four tries to the Dragons at the weekend but insisted: “We’ll look at it and see what we can take forward with it but we’re not going to hang anybody out on the crosses this week.
"We just need to make sure we get the job done next week because it’s a new day for us. We’ve a home semi-final but there’s nothing guaranteed in that. We know that from past experience and so we just want to go out in Thomond Park and give a good account of ourselves.”
A Munster versus Ospreys match-up is one which Dragons director of rugby Lyn Jones would have liked to see in the final but having seen his side concede 50 points to Foley’s team in Cork on Saturday, he tipped the Irishmen to land the Pro12 title.
“If I did have a sneaky 5, which is probably the price of a cup of coffee in Ireland, I would put it on Munster,” Dragons boss Jones said.
“I think the error count is low with Munster, the set-piece is very clean, home advantage will just be too much for the Ospreys. Ospreys and Munster are by far the two best teams that we have played this year.
Munster lost out to their title rivals twice at last night’s Guinness PRO12 Awards in Dublin, when Ospreys’ scrum-half Webb was named the ‘Players’ Player of the Season’ and Ulster’s Craig Gilroy received the try of the season award at the Guinness Storehouse.
Webb narrowly pipped both Gilroy and Munster back row CJ Stander in a vote of the 12 Pro12 captains and vice captains. All three were named on the Guinness Pro12 Dream Team for the season having been voted in by an independent media panel.
Gilroy also won the Sky Sports Try of the Year, polling over 60% of a public vote for his score against Scarlets at Ravenhill in February, edging Munster’s Jack O’Donoghue’s finish of a great team move against Cardiff Blues, also in February.
Other winners on the night were Edinburgh scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, named Young Player of the Season and Glasgow Warriors’ Gregor Townsend, who picked up the Coach of the Season award a day after his side finished the regular season top of table.
Leinster’s Ian Madigan picked up the Rhino Golden Boot with a league-leading 87.04% success rate off the tee and Connacht scooped a cheque for £10,000 (13,750) towards youth development for winning the SpecSavers Fair Play Award for having the fewest yellow and red cards and citings over the 22 rounds.
GUINNESS PRO12 AWARD WINNERS 2014/15 Players’ Player Of The Season:
Rhys Webb (Ospreys); Young Player Of The Season: Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh); Coach Of The Season: Gregor Townsend (Glasgow Warriors); Chairman’s Award: Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors). Sky Sports Try Of The Season: Craig Gilroy (Ulster Rugby); Rhino Golden Boot: Ian Madigan (Leinster); Rhino Collision Kings: Glasgow Warriors; Specsavers Fairplay Award: Connacht.
GUINNESS PRO12 Dream Team 2014/15:
L Williams (Scarlets); T Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), R Henshaw (Connacht), P Horne (Glasgow Warriors), V Gilroy (Ulster Rugby); D Biggar (Ospreys), R Webb (Ospreys); D Buckley (Connacht), R Best (Ulster Rugby), W P Nel (Edinburgh); AW Jones (Ospreys) – captain, F van der Merwe (Ulster); C J Stander (Munster), T O’Donnell (Munster), J Strauss (Glasgow Warriors).
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