Munster bidding to extend remarkable record

Sat, Apr 21, 2012, 01:00

PRO12 LEAGUE Scarlets v MunsterVenue: Parc y Scarlets Kick-off: Today 6.30 On TV: TG4

MUNSTER MANAGED to see off one rival for a place in the semi-finals of the RaboDirect Pro 12 when they beat Glasgow Warriors last week and they’ll attempt to do the same tonight in Wales. The Scarlets are on the periphery of the play-off scramble but know a victory against the Irish province gives them an opportunity going into the last round of matches. Nothing else will suffice.

It’s going to be a tricky assignment because Munster are hugely motivated to try to retain the title they won last season. It also remains the sole avenue open for silverware. The players will want to ensure their departing coach Tony McGahan leaves on a positive note. That notion also applies to Mick O’Driscoll, who retires at the end of the season and departing players like Tomás O’Leary.

O’Driscoll is the epitome of the spirit, pride and dedication that the province likes to champion as its earthy virtues. His performances on the pitch never reflected any frustration he felt in not playing as often as he liked and he will be missed as player and person.

Returning captain, Paul O’Connell who took a bang to his knee in the defeat by Ulster and missed the game against the Warriors is back now to direct and chivvy his side.

BJ Botha returns to anchor the scrum at tighthead prop while on the other side of the frontrow Garryowen’s Dave Kilcoyne is given an opportunity after a decent display in a British Irish Cup semi-final win over Leinster A. Conor Murray starts at scrumhalf with the London Irish-bound O’Leary on the bench.

The Scarlets are without Welsh international Grand Slam winners, centres Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams and hooker Ken Owens. Gareth Maule misses out because of a broken finger.

However, they welcome back wing George North. Stephen Jones, normally an outhalf, continues at number 12 having played there last week in Aironi.

Munster boast a remarkable record against the Scarlets having beaten them on the last 14 occasions the clubs have met, including twice in this season’s Heineken Cup. Scarlets last win over the visitors was in a European quarter-final in 2007. They may be getting closer but Munster can remind them that there’s still a gap there this evening.

SCARLETS: L Williams; G North, A Warren, S Jones, S Lamont; R Priestland, G Davies; R Jones, M Rees (capt), D Manu; S Timani, D Day, A Shingler, J Turnbull, B Morgan. Replacements: E Phillips, P John, S Gardiner, M Gilbert, K Murphy, T Knoyle, J Williams, V Iongi.

MUNSTER: F Jones; L O’Dea, J Murphy, L Mafi, S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, BJ Botha; M O’Driscoll, P O’Connell (capt); D Ryan, T O’Donnell, P O’Mahony. Replacements: D Varley, W du Preez, S Archer, Donncha O’Callaghan, P Butler, T O’Leary, S Deasy, I Dineen.

Referee: A Rolland(Ireland).