Having suffered a shock defeat at home to the Ospreys last weekend and dropped from first to third, Munster are well aware another setback could cost them a home semi-final in the competition.
Cardiff lie seventh and are in danger of missing out on a spot in the top six that would guarantee them a place in next season’s European Champions Cup. They are four points adrift of Glasgow in sixth.
Munster head coach Rassie Erasmus has made five changes from last week’s side, the most noteworthy being the return at number eight of Robin Copeland.
Having played a man-of-the-match role in the famous victory over the Maori All Blacks in early November, this looked like being a big season for the Wexford-born back-row but a few weeks later a nasty thumb injury intervened.
Fittingly, perhaps, the 29-year-old makes his return today against the team where he first made his name on a major stage before linking up with Munster in 2014.
Peter O’Mahony has been retained in Irish camp by Joe Schmidt while Tyler Bleyendaal is rested as part of the management of player loading. Ian Keatley takes over the number 10 jersey with Billy Holland reclaiming the captaincy and is joined in the second-row by Darren O’Shea.
Jaco Taute and fit-again Rory Scannell are reunited in the centre with Francis Saili and Dan Goggin dropping to the bench.
“We are away from home and Cardiff are one of the teams that beat us in one of the four losses we had this season”, pointed out Erasmus. “Now we are playing away from home and we have to recover from last week’s loss. It will be a tough challenge over there.”
Munster have adjusted well to the synthetic playing surface they will encounter this evening with Jaco Taute insisting: “I have no problem with these pitches. I actually like playing on them, especially if it rains a bit. They are a bit drier and make for a fast game. All the games I have played this season so far on the 4G went well. ”
The day has long since passed when taking on Cardiff at the Arms Park was seen as a monumental challenge for Munster teams. If anything, the shoe is on the other foot these days with Blues head coach Danny Wilson stating ”it’s a great challenge to try to secure the double over Munster, something which doesn’t present itself season in, season out. We targeted three wins out of our last four games. We slipped up in the first against Connacht at home, which has put a bit of pressure on this last one against Munster. We really want to achieve that goal and objective to give ourselves the opportunity to be in that top six and we remain really motivated to finish the season in that position”.
Number 8 Nick Williams, formerly of Munster and Ulster, and livewire scrum-half Lloyd Williams could represent serious threats to the visitors while Gareth Anscombe is an experienced number 10 with nine Welsh caps. Furthermore, Cardiff are nothing like as hard hit as Ospreys and Scarlets by the calls of the Welsh national side even if Alex Cuthbert, Kristian Dacey and, of course, Sam Warburton have been retained by Rob Howley.
M Morgan; A Summerhill, W Halaholo, S Shingler, T James; G Anscombe, L Williams capt; C Domachowski, M Rees, A Peikrishvili, G Earle, J Hoeata, M Cook, J Navidi, N Williams.
K Myhill, M Thomas, T Filise, J Down, S Bennett, T Williams, G Smith, R Williams.
A Conway; D Sweetnam, J Taute, R Scannell, R O’Mahony; I Keatley, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, R Marshall, S Archer, D O’Shea, B Holland capt, D O’Callaghan, T O’Donnell, R Copeland.
K O’Byrne, P McCabe, B Scott, F Wycherley, C Oliver, A Griesel, D Goggin, F Saili.
Mike Adamson (Scotland).