In-form Munster braced for a difficult assignment

Glasgow Warriors welcome back nine players from Scotland duty for intriguing clash

Tommy O’Donnell:  the Tipperary man makes  his 100th appearance for Munster tonight when the province visit Glasgow Warriors. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Tommy O’Donnell: the Tipperary man makes his 100th appearance for Munster tonight when the province visit Glasgow Warriors. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

Glasgow Warriors v Munster, Scotstoun (7.35, live on TG4) The last time these teams met was six weeks ago in a Champions Cup match at Thomond Park when Munster romped to a 38-17 victory, on a hugely emotional day in the wake of Anthony Foley’s passing.

Since then Munster have beaten all before them, including the Maori All Blacks, and they have risen to the top of the Guinness Pro12 table, playing a hugely effective and entertaining brand of rugby in the process.

In contrast the Glasgow Warriors have struggled, principally in their last two matches, where they have gone down to heavy defeats to Llanelli and most recently, a 22-5 loss at home to the Ospreys.

Gregor Townsend’s side welcome back nine players from Scotland duty along with Sila Puafisi who played in Tonga’s victory over Italy.

The in-form Tommy Seymour returns, the winger scoring for his country against Georgia last weekend; the former Ulster player is the tournament’s leading try scorer with seven.  

Outhalf Peter Murchie featured in all three of Scotland’s November internationals while Townsend has elected to play Rob Harley in the secondrow alongside Tim Swinson.

On the bench Fiji international scrumhalf Nemia Kenatale could make his debut for the Scottish club.

Townsend said: “It was great to see all the Warriors playing test rugby over the past few weeks and we welcome a number of them back this weekend.

Hard work

“Munster are well organised in defence, physical in contact and show innovation in attack. We’re going to have to be alert and at our best to come out on top tomorrow night.”

Munster’s Rassie Erasmus has made six changes for the trip to Glasgow and one of those sees captain Peter O’Mahony return to the backrow following international duty with Jack O’Donoghue moving to number eight.

It will be a significant night for the third member of the breakaway trio, openside flanker Tommy O’Donnell, the Tipperary man making his 100th appearance for the province.

Jean Kleyn and Billy Holland, who won his first cap against Canada, are in the second row with Niall Scannell coming in at hooker.

Tyler Bleyendaal is rested so Ian Keatley starts at outhalf. Rory Scannell is back in the centre with South African Jaco Taute shifting out one place in the midfield.

Donnacha Ryan also returns from the Ireland squad and is named among the replacements, a bench that includes 23-year-old New Zealand born scrumhalf Te Aihe Toma. He is in Munster on a short term deal and could make his competitive debut for the province.

Dan Goggin and Alex Wootton, both underage internationals, are excellent prospects. 

League points

While the teams will preoccupy themselves directly with fighting for the league points, a match of this calibre is also a very useful hit out ahead of rounds three and four in European competition.

While Munster’s collective performance has been excellent it has been underpinned by several outstanding individual contributions.

Dave Kilcoyne and John Ryan spring to mind. The back three possesses oodles of pace and footwork, while Rory Scannell will have benefited from his call-up to Ireland training, fitting recognition of his form this season.

Against any Scottish team, accuracy at the breakdown is so important, particularly if Munster want to play with the width and tempo that has been so impressive in their recent performances.  

The Warriors will want to respond positively to the disappointment of their last couple of displays but are facing an in-form team, who have coped admirably in the absence of internationals Simon Zebo, Keith Earls, Conor Murray and CJ Stander.

They must do so again here but there is no reason to doubt that they can.

MUNSTER: A Conway, D Sweetnam, J Taute, R Scannell, R O’Mahony; I Keatley, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan; J Kleyn, B Holland; P O’Mahony (capt), T O’Donnell, J O’Donoghue. Replacements: R Marshall, T du Toit, S Archer, D Ryan, R Copeland, T Aihe Toma, D Goggin, A Wootton.

GLASGOW WARRIORS: P Murchie; R Hughes, N Grigg, M Bennett, T Seymour; P Horne, A Price; G Reid, F Brown, S Puafisi; T Swinson, R Harley; J Strauss, C Fusaro, R Wilson (capt). Replacements: C Flynn, A Allan, D’Arcy Rae, R McAlpine, L Haupeakui, N Kenatale, R Clegg, L Jones.

Referee: N Owens (Wales).

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