Oli Jager to make Munster debut as Glasgow visit Musgrave Park

Graham Rowntree’s side marginal favourites as Glasgow rotate slightly following victory over Munster

URC Munster v Glasgow Warriors, Friday December 1st, Musgrave Park. 7.35pm, live on TG4, Premier Sports and URC TV

The defending URC champions welcome the league leaders to Cork after which both sides will have a better appreciation of where they stand heading into the European Champions Cup fortnight. It’s a match which promises to be a high-quality tussle between teams that project the quality of their Irish backs coaches, Mike Prendergast and Nigel Carolan (Glasgow Warriors).

They enter the game on the back of contrasting fortunes, Graham Rowntree’s Munster producing a pretty good performance albeit in their defeat to Leinster while Glasgow were comfortable for the most part in a 33-20 win over Ulster.

Munster appeared to get a little spooked for a while at the Aviva Stadium after their excellent start to the Leinster match and resorted to arguably kicking a little too much ball away rather than persevering with an attacking shape that had caused so many problems for their hosts in the first 20 minutes of the match.

There was much to admire in Munster’s performance, a cussedness in defence to go with the structure of that system, the work ethic, ability to scramble and thwart their opponents, while some of what they accomplished with ball in hand was first class. Building on that foundation is an important legacy requirement from that display.

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Halfbacks Jack Crowley and Craig Casey were at the centre of many of their team’s brightest moments, thriving individually and as part of the collective. A small work-on for Crowley is to back his footwork and pace on occasion as he did in his underage international days. He possesses all the tools to be the player he wants to be, provincially and in the Test match arena.

Diarmuid Barron was terrific, so too John Hodnett, while Tom Ahern’s switch to the backrow showcased his athleticism without interfering with his commitment to the grunt work. Tadhg Beirne and Rory Scannell worked like Trojans, the odd mistake notwithstanding.

Injuries have denied Munster the presence of Jean Kleyn, also excellent the last day, Simon Zebo, who made the break for the Casey try and John Ryan. Rowntree makes three changes to the starting team Sean O’Brien comes in on the left wing with Shane Daly switching to fullback. Alex Nankivell replaces Scannell while the promising Edwin Edogbo returns to partner Beirne. Tighthead prop Oli Jager will make his Munster debut off the bench.

Glasgow Warriors head coach Franco Smith makes seven changes and a positional switch to the side that beat Ulster. Injuries to centre Huw Jones, wing Kyle Steyn, wing Facundo Cordero, scrumhalf Jamie Dobie, secondrow JP du Preez and hooker Fraser Brown saw them absent with pre-existing conditions prior to last weekend, so it doesn’t fully explain why he’s elected to make so many alterations.

The league’s leading try scorer, Johnny Matthews (seven), is part of an all new frontrow that includes Nathan McBeth and Lucio Sordoni. Scott Cummings, Rory Darge and Sintu Manjezi, who switches to the secondrow, are the only survivors in the pack. The backline has a more settled look with outhalf Duncan Weir and wing Ollie Smith the only changes.

Smith said: “The URC is such a competitive competition [and] travelling to Munster remains one of the most difficult challenges in the league. Munster are defending champions for a reason; they are a team filled with experience and international quality who know how to perform on the big stage. It will be a huge challenge for us, and we know we have to be at our best.”

It would be nice to see Munster invest more in their running game. It certainly doesn’t preclude them from kicking because they did so very well at times putting the Leinster backthree under pressure and forcing some mistakes, but more a case of maximising any quick, front-foot ball to bring the qualities of the three-quarter line to the fore.

Glasgow have started the season superbly but look a little short personnel wise for the task in hand. It should be Munster’s night.

Munster: S Daly; C Nash, A Frisch, A Nankivell, S O’Brien; J Crowley, C Casey; J Loughman, D Barron (capt), S Archer; E Edogbo, T Beirne; T Ahern, J Hodnett, G Coombes.

Replacements: S Buckley, D Kilcoyne, O Jager, F Wycherley, B Gleeson, C Murray, R Scannell, A Kendellen.

Glasgow Warriors: J McKay; K Rowe, S Tuipulotu, S McDowall (capt), Ollie Smith; D Weir, S Kennedy; N McBeth, J Matthews, L Sordoni; Sintu Manjezi, S Cummings; S Vailanu, Rory Darge, Henco Venter.

Replacements: A Fraser, O Kebble, Z Fagerson, G Peterson, M Williamson, T Gordon, B Afshar, T Jordan.

Referee: M van der Westhuizen (South Africa)

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer