Varley insists intensity will not be lacking

TONY McGAHAN has made 14 changes to the Munster team for this evening’s Magners League clash with the Ospreys.

The mass of changes from the side that beat Scarlets seven days ago sees the return of the more established players ahead of next week’s Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final against Harlequins.

Furthermore, Munster have already secured a home Magners League semi-final, so momentum ahead of the big games is the only thing at stake.

“We don’t see this as a dead rubber and our attitude is the same as it would be towards any other game,” said hooker Damien Varley.

“You can never become any less intense just because you have already qualified. There are still areas where we want to improve and push still further with two semi-finals still to come.

“The Ospreys have a very strong scrum and it’s an area where we may have failed in some of the three previous games against them this season.

“But we have worked very hard in this area, it has improved immensely over the last number of weeks, and we’re confident of taking them on up front.

“Ospreys are a great team, especially at the Liberty Stadium. We struggled there in December but the Munster way is to play with high intensity and at a level where the opposition can’t cope. We proved it against Leinster, although Brive was probably a different kettle of fish but we still know we have the squad to win these games.”

The constant rotation of the side makes line-out throwing a little more difficult for the hooker.

“It is a challenge,” Varley acknowledged. “Our squad is very deep and when people change in and out of positions, it is hard but it’s still an area where we have improved.

“It’s something you have to cope with in professional rugby.”

With Ireland certain to bring three hookers to the world cup in September, Varley has his sights set on being aboard that plane.

“My best chance to get near the World Cup squad is to focus on the two semi-finals ahead and so I’m focusing on everything with Munster for the rest of the season and we’ll see what happens after that.”

However, the Ospreys must win tonight and then take full points from their final game away to Aironi to have any chance of making the semi-finals.

“It’s all or nothing now,” said coach Jonathan Humphreys, who has left Duncan Jones, Ryan Jones, Jerry Collins and Mike Phillips on the bench. “We must go into the game with clear heads, focus and be professional.”

OSPREYS: L Byrne, N Walker, T Bowe, J Hook, R Fussell D Biggar, R Webb; R Bevington, R Hibbard, A Jones, A Wyn Jones (capt), I Gough, J Tipuric, M Holah, J Thomas.

Replacements: H Bennett, P James, D Jones, R Jones, J Collins, M Phillips, A Bishop, S. Parker.

MUNSTER: F Jones, D Howlett, L Mafi, P Warwick, K Earls, R O’Gara (capt), C Murray; M Horan, D Varley, J Hayes, I Nagle, D O’Callaghan, D Ryan, D Wallace, J Coughlan.

Replacements: M Sherry, W Du Preez, T Buckley, T O’Donnell, N Ronan, P Stringer, D Barnes, S Zebo.

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