RugbyMatch Preview

Munster braced for a feisty challenge from formidable Glasgow

Carrot of a home URC final in Thomond Park no small incentive for Graham Rowntree’s side

Gavin Coombes and Tadhg Beirne tackle Glasgow Warriors' Tom Jordan during last December's URC clash at Musgrave Park. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
URC semi-final: Munster v Glasgow Warriors, Thomond Park, Saturday, 6.0 – Live on TG4 and Premier Sports

Graham Rowntree was not giving much away this week.

Munster knocked Glasgow out of the competition last season at the quarter-final stage when they travelled to Scotstoun and eked out a 14-5 win. Rowntree knows what coach Franco Smith and Glasgow will bring to the match in Thomond Park and how Munster will counter.

More recently in December, Munster won their URC meeting 40-29 at Musgrave Park, with Glasgow showing one of their strengths to great effect. Although the Scottish side lost, their rolling maul on the day was exceptional. Four of their five tries came directly from it and a fifth try came two phases after a maul drive.

“They certainly do still have that weapon,” said Rowntree. “The tries they’ve scored in the URC from the set-piece pay testament to that. That was the first of December. We conceded more than we should have and it made us have a change of philosophy in how we were defending mauls.


“They’ve got the full package, the best maul and scrum in the URC, and they’re dangerous. They have depth at the edge of the field.”

Munster come into the semi-final unbeaten in their last 10 URC games. They haven’t lost in the competition since Connacht beat them in Galway on New Year’s Day. It is their longest winning streak since 2011 and with home advantage they go into the game with confidence but also with some aspects of their game to fix.

Against Ospreys, Munster struggled to break down the defence in the second half despite territory and possession. To that end, Rowntree has made some adjustments to his backline with a fit-again Alex Nankivell adding cutting edge in the centre, renewing his midfield partnership with Antoine Frisch.

Alex Nankivell: he makes a timely return to the Munster squad for the clash with Glasgow. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Simon Zebo, who started the game last week against Ospreys at fullback, shifts to the familiar left wing with Mike Haley coming in at No 15.

Fineen Wycherley and Jack O’Donoghue start in the pack as Munster make four personnel changes and one positional switch. The spark of Irish wing Calvin Nash will be missed as he is unavailable because of a leg injury.

Aside from Glasgow’s maul, they have other threats around the park with Scotland international centres Huw Jones and Sione Tuipulotu an obviously dangerous pairing that will require close attention.

“They’ve got the full package, they can play, they’re dangerous on the edge of the field, they kick a lot less than most teams, they have a dangerous breakdown, and they come here with – reading between the lines – quite a gnarly attitude, similar to us on the road last year,” said Rowntree.

“We spoke about that mindset this week. That’s what we’re waiting for.”

Munster have played in 12 previous championship semi-finals, winning six of them and losing six. The players will be motivated to get into one more against either Leinster or the Bulls as a win would give Munster a home final in Thomond Park.

MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Shane Daly, Antoine Frisch, Alex Nankivell, Simon Zebo; Jack Crowley, Craig Casey; Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Fineen Wycherley, Tadhg Beirne (capt); Peter O’Mahony, John Hodnett, Jack O’Donoghue.

Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, John Ryan, Oli Jager, RG Snyman, Gavin Coombes, Conor Murray, Seán O’Brien, Alex Kendellen.

GLASGOW WARRIORS: Josh McKay; Sebastian Cancelliere, Huw Jones, Sione Tuipulotu, Kyle Steyn (capt); Tom Jordan, George Horne; Jamie Bhatti, Johnny Matthews, Zander Fagerson; Scott Cummings, Richie Gray; Matt Fagerson, Rory Darge, Jack Dempsey.

Replacements: George Turner, Oli Kebble, Murphy Walker, Max Williamson, Euan Ferrie, Henco Venter, Jamie Dobie, Ross Thompson.

Referee: Andrea Piardi (Ita).

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times