World Cup demands deprive both Munster and Ospreys of the majority of their top players when they meet in the Guinness PRO14 at Musgrave Park tonight.
But it’s still an attractive clash between teams that will also meet in the the European Cup and is one of the reasons why the West Stand is sold out, with a limited number of terrace tickets still available.
Munster provided a dozen players to the Irish World Cup squad and they aren’t set to return to the domestic scene until Monday week.
However, that hasn’t prevented head coach Johann van Graan from naming a formidable 23 and making five changes from the side that lost heavily to South African side Cheetahs last time out.
Special interest will centre on the first PRO14 start for former PBC schools star Jack O’Sullivan, a back-row forward of massive potential, and also coming into the line-up are wing Calvin Nash, scrum-half Neilly Cronin, loose head prop James Cronin, and short-term Australian signing Jed Holloway.
The unrelated Cronins also make their first starts of the season, with James finally back in the fray having recovered from a serious knee injury that kept him out of action for over nine months.
While he can hardly expect to repeat the heroics of last week when he crossed for three tries for Highfield in the All-Ireland League, he is hopeful of a trouble-free run that could enable him to challenge in-form Dave Kilcoyne for the number one jersey on the biggest days.
Ospreys may find it difficult to focus given eight of their players are in Japan with Wales and keyed up for Sunday’s semi-final clash with South Africa.
Nevertheless, it will be a significant occasion for another great Welsh player of recent years, captain Dan Lydiate, who makes his 50th appearance for the club.
Munster got off to a fine start to their South African trip with a comfortable bonus point victory over Southern Kings, but Currie Cup champions Cheetahs proved a different proposition as they took advantage of Munster’s discomfort in the difficult conditions to run up a succession of late scores and win by 40 points to 16.
“Ospreys are in our European pool and we will give them the respect they deserve,” said van Graan.
“I thought we played well in the first 45 minutes against Cheetahs but after that the score ballooned with the heat and the altitude a factor. Our focus will be to get back into some kind of rhythm.”
M Haley; C Nash, D Goggin, R Scannell, S Daly; T Bleyendaal, N Cronin; J Cronin, R Marshall, S Archer, J Holloway, B Holland capt, J O’Donoghue, T O’Donnell, J O’Sullivan.
Replacements: K O’Byrne, L O’Connor, J Loughman, F Wycherley, A Botha, C Casey, JJ Hanrahan, S Arnold.
C Evans; H Dirksen, S Williams, T Thomas-Wheeler, T Williams; L Price, M Aubrey; R Jones, S Parry, T Botha, D Lydiate capt, L Ashley, O Cracknell, S Cross, G Evans.
Replacements: S Otten, G Thomas, M Fia, W Griffiths, D Baker, R Morgan-Williams, J Hook, L Klim.