Foley wary of Ospreys set-piece

The new rugby season could hardly have begun in a more contrasting fashion for Anthony Foley and Steve Tandy, the respective head coaches of Munster and Ospreys who renew their rivalry in the Guinness Pro 12 at Thomond Park this evening, kick-off 6.30pm.

Foley wary of Ospreys set-piece

Foley has had to endure the loss of key players to injury while defeat in the opening game to Edinburgh was followed by less than convincing wins over the hapless Italian duo Treviso and Zebre.

Tandy, on the other hand, has been entitled to smirk at the pundits who predicted a dire season for Ospreys after they lost Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones, Ian Evans and Ryan Jones in the close season.

Not only did they hammer Edinburgh with nine tries but they have surged to the top of the table with 14 points, one ahead of their nearest rivals Glasgow and four clear of Munster.

Tandy isn’t getting carried away, though.

“We are not the greatest team in the world despite scoring nine tries in one match. That’s all done and dusted and we will have a real test when we meet Munster. It’s going to be a fantastic experience for some of those young men still learning their trade and is a big step forward in their development.”

As both player and coach, Foley has experienced what Ospreys teams are capable of. Nevertheless, he was typically honest and up front when observing their “set-piece is going to be of massive importance.

“They have a lot of re-set scrums and a lot of penalties and free-kicks around set-piece time so obviously that’s something we need to bring to the attention of the referee.”

Even though the clash with Leinster is only a week away and followed by the all-important European Champions Cup games against Sale and Saracens, Foley is still content to give his squad a chance to show their potential.

Only six of those who started against Ospreys last week are retained. There is no place for Simon Zebo, scorer of a hat-trick of tries in that game, with South African Gerhard Van den Heever returning in the No 11 jersey after a four-week injury lay-off.

The captaincy passes for the first time to scrum-half Conor Murray while the inclusion of Ian Dineen and Denis Hurley in the centre will come under the closest scrutiny given this is a major problem area after the departure of Casey Laulala and James Downey.

Munster must improve appreciably on what they have produced so far this season. Not only have the Ospreys looked extremely impressive but Tandy has named his strongest side which will be captained by Paul O’Connell’s Lions second row team-mate Alun-Wyn Jones, the outstanding No 7 Justin Tipuric and the long established half-back partnership of Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb.

MUNSTER: J Murphy; A Conway, I Dineen, D Hurley, G Van den Heever; I Keatley, C Murray capt; D Kilcoyne, D Casey, BJ Botha, D O’Callaghan, P O’Connell, P Butler, S Dougall, CJ Stander.

Replacements: K O’Byrne, J Cronin, S Archer, D Foley, J O’Donoghue, D Williams, JJ Hanrahan, A Smith.

OSPREYS: D Evans; J Hasler, A Bishope, J Matavesi, E Walker; D Biggar, R Webb; N Smith, S Baldwin, A Jones, A Wyn Jones, R Bernardo, J Bearman, J Tipuric, D Baker.

Replacements: S Parry, D Jones, D Arhip, J King, M Allen, M Roberts, S Davies, H Dirksen.

Referee: N Hennessy (Wales).

* The All-Ireland hurling final replay will be shown at the Thomond Park concourse and Dug-Out bar.

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