Munster aim to restore pride against Ospreys

There hasn’t been much talk about it recently, but Munster are still embarrassed about the capitulation to the Ospreys in last season’s RaboDirect semi-final.

Hooker Mike Sherry admitted it was obviously something on the players’ minds as they go into tonight’s clash at the Liberty Stadium.

“They’re obviously an exceptional side who have won the league more than anyone else,” he said.

“Our last experience over there wasn’t happy. We let ourselves down and I didn’t have my happiest day that day.

“I think we have put that behind us, although it’s still in the back of our heads that we really let ourselves down.”

The teams have had conttrasting fortunes to date this season, with Munster starting well with three wins from four and a losing bonus point away to Ulster, while the Ospreys lost three on the bounce before a decent away victory against the Scarlets last week.

But previous results don’t make any impression on Sherry who spoke of the Ospreys’ impressive track record in the tournament.

“It doesn’t matter how they’ve done in their last few games. You would never underestimate them because of the players they have and the history they have of getting great results. It shouldn’t have mattered even if they had lost last weekend. I still think we would be preparing the exact same way.”

Munster coach Rob Penney was highly satisfied with last week’s bonus point win over the Dragons but still has made six changes from the starting line-up. Denis Hurley is in for Ian Keatley at full-back, Casey Laulala is named instead of James Downey and Conor Murray takes over from Peter Stringer. Wian du Preez returns to replace Marcus Horan, Stephen Archer gets a start at tight head instead of BJ Botha and Tommy O’Donnell is named in the back row for Dave O’Callaghan.

Meanwhile, for Ospreys, Ryan Bevington has got the start ahead of Duncan Jones, last week’s man of the match in the victory over Scarlets. The 23-year-old will make his 50th league appearance for the region in a side packed with seasoned campaigners like Richard Fussell, Dan Biggar, Alun Wyn Jones and Ryan Jones.

The Ospreys belatedly kick-started their season with the 23-16 win last week and Bevington highlighted how important it would be to continue that upward curve.

“It’s been a good place to be this week,” he said.

“There’s a definite buzz after last weekend. We want to try and build on that and run into a bit of form now. I don’t think we were a million miles away in the opening games.”

Yet, Bevington accepts Munster could provide them with a more difficult evening than last week’s test.

“They are a good team and we’ve got a lot of respect for them. You know that when you play them you are in for a difficult time, but that’s what you want, a real challenge.

“It’s probably perfect for us really, after a disappointing start and building on from the Scarlets as it allows you to judge for yourself where you are.

“They’ve started the season well and are where you always expect a Munster team to be, up at the top of the table. That’s where we want to be, so we know what we’ve got to do and that means we need to be at our best.”

OSPREYS: R Fussell; H Dirksen, A Bishop, A Beck, T Isaacs; D Biggar, K Fotuali’i; R Bevington, R Hibbard, A Jarvis; I Evans, A W Jones (captain); R Jones, J Bearman, J Tipuric.

Replacements: S Baldwin, D Jones, A Jones, J Thomas, G Stowers, R Webb, M Morgan, R Jones.

MUNSTER: D Hurley; D Howlett (captain), K Earls, C Laulala, S Zebo; R O’Gara, C Murray; W Du Preez, M Sherry, S Archer; D O’Callaghan, B Holland; T O’Donnell, N Ronan, P Butler.

Replacements: D Varley, D Kilcoyne, BJ Botha, D Ryan, P O’Mahony, P Stringer, I Keatley, J Downey.

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