Warriors to push Munster hard
CJ Stander (centre) starts at blindside in a strong Munster side to face Glasgow Warriors in the Rabo Direct Pro12 at Thomond Park tonight. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
This is another meaty game, so to speak, for Munster and indeed for Glasgow. Munster are in second place, seven points ahead of the Scottish side in the fourth play-off place, making this the pick of the weekend’s games.
Were Glasgow to win it would take them to within three or four points of Munster with a game in hand and a potentially more productive run-in of Ulster (home), Edinburgh (away), Treviso (a) and Zebre (home).
After tonight, Munster face Connacht (away), Edinburgh (away) and Ulster (home).
Up front, loosehead John Ryan and hooker Duncan Casey are called in; Donncha O’Callaghan is restored for the rested Paul O’Connel; CJ Stander starts at blindside, with Sean Dougall recalled at openside.
Starts at outhalf
JJ Hanrahan starts at outhalf, while Keith Earls moves to outside centre in place of Casey Laulala, with Gerhard van den Heever starting at right wing.
As a further indication of this fixture’s importance, Munster’s strong bench includes four of last week’s starting line-up.
As a demonstration of their squad strength after three successive wins (all at Scotstoun), Gregor Townsend makes nine changes, recalling Tommy Seymour in place of leading try-scorer Niko Matawalu in an all-Scottish back three, with Alex Dunbar at outside centre, while Duncan Weir and Chris Cusiter come in at half-back.
Dougie Hall and Jon Welsh are recalled to the frontrow, Tim Swinson to the secondrow, and Josh Strauss and Chris Fusaro to the backrow.
Munster have won seven of their last eight meetings with Glasgow but the Warriors are a tricky, obdurate and difficult side to break down.
Forecast : Munster to win.
MUNSTER : F Jones, G van den Heever, K Earls, J Downey, S Zebo, JJ Hanrahan, C Murray: J Ryan, D Casey, BJ Botha, D O’Callaghan, D Foley, CJ Stander, S Dougall, J Coughlan (Capt). Replacements : Q MacDonald, D Kilcoyne, A Cotter, B Holland, P Butler, D Williams, I Keatley, J Murphy
GLASGOW : P Murchie; S Maitland, A Dunbar, F Russell, T Seymour; D Weir, C Cusiter (Capt): G Reid, D Hall, J Welsh; T Swinson, J Gray; J Strauss. C Fusaro. R Wilson. Replacements : P MacArthur, J Yanuyanutawa, G Cross, L Nakarawa, R Harley, H Pyrgos, P Horne, R Vernon
Referee : Nigel Owens (Wales)