Familiar foes Ospreys visit Munster at their lowest ebb

A trip to Thomond Park has and always will hold a degree of trepidation for any Welsh region, but as the Ospreys prepare to take on Munster again the Swansea side are arguably at their lowest ebb.

Familiar foes Ospreys visit Munster at their lowest ebb

A trip to Thomond Park has and always will hold a degree of trepidation for any Welsh region, but as the Ospreys prepare to take on Munster again the Swansea side are arguably at their lowest ebb.

The numbers make for truly depressing reading. There has been just one win all season — a narrow Guinness PRO14 success against Benetton on October 12. Since then there have been 12 straight defeats — a run which has seen confidence plummet to an all-time Liberty Stadium low.

For a side which has set the standard for Welsh club rugby since the dawn of professionalism with four Celtic League titles, it is tough to take. Somehow, they must try to turn the tide.

“The morale has been pretty good considering the hurdles we’ve had to face this season,” said Ospreys attack coach Matt Sherratt, who will jump ship for Worcester at the end of the season.

“Our group was called the pool of death for a reason and we’ve played against three of the best teams in Europe. There has been no let up and we need a break. We’ve had three Welsh derbies over Christmas and then two of the best teams in European rugby. With Saracens and Munster you know what you’re going to get — they don’t deviate too much from how they play.

“Munster’s game is built on strong foundations. Their kicking game is very good with Conor Murray and they’ve got a good set-piece and power.

“It’s the fourth time we’ll face them this season so there won’t be any surprises.”

Munster might be a familiar foe, but in more than a decade the men from south Wales haven’t crossed the Irish Sea in more of a pickle than they are in now.

They remain without a head coach after Allen Clarke’s departure though Mike Ruddock is helping out until the end of the season after joining from Irish club side Lansdowne.

It’s hard to see when their next win will arrive given Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones has only just returned to action and will soon be lost for the Six Nations. George North and Justin Tipuric are in the same boat, but at least the Ospreys have all three in their starting XV.

Wing star North starts at outside centre for the second game in a row, an injury-enforced switch. Star Wales fly-half Gareth Anscombe — their big summer signing — has been on the treatment table all season.

“We’re looking a lot more positive on the injury front. The Welsh guys have only played one or two games so them being involved is as good for them as it is good for us,” said Sherratt. “Our focus is on getting a performance for the Ospreys and the Six Nations can then run off the back of that.

“George is an option at centre. He’s a winger first and foremost and it was a genuine selection against Saracens last weekend because we’ve had a number of centres out injured.

“It was a chance to get George a little bit closer to the ball and I thought he went OK. He’s not going to be as comfortable there as he is on the wing because it’s a different position.”

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