Tommy O’Donnell reintroduction should solidify Munster’s ruck

Not quite as much at stake as last year’s Pro12 final but still a must-win game for both sides

Glasgow Warriors v Munster, Kilmarnock (7.35pm, live on Sky Sports 5)

A meeting of the teams that contested last season’s Guinness Pro12 final, when Glasgow Warriors prevailed, is in marked contrast as a backdrop to the current predicament of both teams as they crane to glimpse the top of the table.

Glasgow (eighth) and Munster (sixth) have a match in the case of the Irish province, or a brace of games for the Scottish franchise, on most of their rivals that lie above them but the loser at Rugby Park will feel the pressure squeeze a little tighter as they chase a playoff place.

The home side have won only one of their last seven matches in all competitions, coincidentally at tonight's venue – Scotstoun is waterlogged and unplayable – when they beat Racing 92 in the Champions Cup but will benefit from internationals released from the Scotland squad in Sean Lamont, Gordon Reid, Tim Swinson and Duncan Weir, who start, and prop Zager Fagerson, the latter named among the replacements.

Munster also profit from the re-routing of Donnacha Ryan, Tommy O'Donnell and James Cronin from the national squad to provincial duty. Cronin is named on the bench. Anthony Foley makes five changes to the team that lost last weekend to the Ospreys in Cork.

Niall Scannell comes in at hooker, captain, Billy Holland moves to the secondrow with Ryan and O'Donnell introduced to the back five in the pack. Jack O'Donoghue switches from openside to blindside flanker. Behind the scrum Tomás O'Leary and academy prospect David Johnston have been pencilled in at scrumhalf and centre respectively.

Darren Sweetnam produced an eye-catching display both in attack and defence last week and it'll be interesting to note how he fares against Lamont, a player with over a 100 caps for his country.

Valid argument

Mind you there’s a valid argument to suggest that Ronan O’Mahony faces a tougher remit in having to stop the gargantuan Taqele Naiyaravoro.

The well-worn rugby adage about packs winning matches accentuates the tussle at set-piece, scrum and lineout, but also the breakdown, which promises to be a fascinating contest. Watching Glasgow's Fijian Leone Nakarawa play is generally worth the admission price alone.

One area where Munster suffered particularly in defeat to the Ospreys was an inability to slow opposition ball down at the breakdown. The Welsh side recycled at speed and that allowed them to stay on the front foot, causing huge problems for the Irish province. O’Donnell’s presence should give his side a better crack at contesting ruck ball.

The last Irish province to beat the Warriors at home (Scotstoun) was Munster in 2013, the latter’s two victories in their last six league matches have both been away from home. Munster have entrusted the midfield partnership to two young, talented players in the absence of Francis Saili.

Glasgow, a little closer to their strongest lineup in personnel terms, will start as favourites.

GLASGOW WARRIORS: P Murchie; T Naiyaravoro, G Bryce, P Horne, S Lamont; D Weir, A Price; G Reid, J Malcolm, S Puafisi; T Swinson, L Nakarawa; R Harley, C Fusaro, J Strauss (capt). Replacements: C Fenton, J Yanuyanutawa, Z Fangerson, G Petersen, S Favaro, G Hart, F Lyle, R Hughes.

MUNSTER: A Conway; D Sweetnam, D Johnston, R Scannell, R O'Mahony; I Keatley, T O'Leary; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan; D Ryan, B Holland (capt); J O'Donoghue, T O'Donnell, R Copeland. Replacements: M Sherry, J Cronin, M Sagaro, D Foley, C Oliver, D Williams, J Holland, C Bohane.

Referee: B Whitehouse (Wales)

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer

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