In total, the Director of Rugby has made ten changes from the side that defeated Toulouse in the Champions Cup last week and has included no fewer than six internationals on a powerful bench. However, there is still no sign of a return to action for scrum-half Conor Murray while CJ Stander continues to rehab the ankle injury he sustained against Toulouse and Keith Earls is also rested.
Significantly, however, Peter O’Mahony is on the bench, indicating his badly bruised leg has responded to treatment.
Jean Deysel, the former Springbok who recently joined Munster on a short term deal to the end of the season, makes his first appearance in a back-row that also contains Conor Oliver, who has been rewarded for a number of impressive performances off the bench and for the “A” side, at open side and Jack O’Donoghue at number eight.
Billy Holland captains the side from the second-row where he is partnered by the versatile Dave O’Callaghan while James Cronin, Rhys Marshall and Stephen Archer make up a new front-row.
In Murray’s continued absence, Duncan Williams again partners current PRO 12 Golden Boot leader Tyler Bleyendaal at half-back with Francis Saili and Jaco Taute linking for the first time in the centre while Andrew Conway, Darren Sweetnam and Ronan O’Mahony comprise a familiar looking back three.
“Now we know we are in the semi-finals in Europe, our mindset has changed a little bit”, said Erasmus. “I am not saying at all that we diminish the importance of the Pro12, I am just saying we have to be wise with player management.
“We must see if we can have as fit and on form a squad as possible when we get into the semi-finals. Teams like Glasgow and Ulster (next week) are formidable but beating them can really secure you a PRO12 semi-final as well. It’s a little bit of a juggling act and we don’t have all the answers yet.”
Having suffered a heavy defeat against Saracens in the European Cup, Glasgow have only the PRO12 to concern them and even then they have a massive amount of ground to make up with four rounds to go if they are to reach the semi-finals.
They are currently in 6th place with 51 pts, ten behind fourth-placed Ulster and would probably have to win their remaining chances to have any chance.
Accordingly, head coach Gregor Townsend is travelling with a massively experienced squad of over 1,500 appearances for Glasgow spread through the 23 man squad. Stuart Hogg, widely tipped to be the Lions Test full-back in New Zealand this summer, will be his usual threat while numerous other senior Scottish internationals including Tommy Seymour, halves Finn Russell and Ali Price, Gordon Reid, Fraser Brown, Johnny Gray and Rob Harley are sprinkled through a formidable looking outfit.
“We have had some great battles with Munster already this season and we are expecting the same this time”, said Townsend. “They bring physicality and intensity on the same level as a Test match.
“We didn’t get things right last weekend against Saracens but things move on pretty quickly in sport and we now have an opportunity to show a true reflection of the rugby we are capable of playing.”
Given the fractious atmosphere that prevailed in the European Cup game between the sides at Scotstoun and the fact that Glasgow won’t want to suffer a fourth defeat in as many meetings of the sides this season, this may not be a game for the faint-hearted. Munster’s experimental side clearly faces a major task but the support of a full Musgrave Park house may help to make it four-from-four against the Scots.
A Conway; D Sweetnam, F Saili, J Taute, R O’Mahony; T Bleyendaal, D Williams; J Cronin, R Marshall, S Archer, D O’Callaghan, B Holland capt, J Deysel, C Oliver, J O’Donoghue.
N Scannell, D Kilcoyne, J Ryan, D Ryan, p O’Mahony A Lloyd, R Scannell, S Zebo.
S Hogg; T Seymour, N Grigg, A Dunbar, L Jones; F Russell, A Price; G Reid, F Brown, S Puafisi, B Alu’uinese, J Gray, R Harley, R Wilson, A Ashe.
P MacArthur, A Allan, D Rae, S Cummings, C Fusaro, H Pyrgos, P Horne, R Hughes.
N Owens (WRU)