Match Page 2017-18 - Scoreboard WP ID: 132

Match Page 2017-18 - Last Time WP ID: 133

Match Page 2017-18 - Current Standing WP: 134

Match Page 2017-18 - H2H WP: 136

Match Page 2017-18 - Last 3 Matches WP: 142

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Preview: Munster vs Scarlets

Charlie Peat 23 Mar 2018

Two teams looking to close the gap on their respective Conference leaders go head-to-head in the Guinness PRO14 on Saturday evening, as Munster Rugby and Scarlets clash at Thomond Park.

This is the first meeting between the two sides since last year’s Championship final, when Scarlets claimed their second title with a comprehensive 46-22 victory at the Aviva Stadium.

Munster will want to get back to winning ways following their 12-6 loss at Edinburgh last Friday, while Scarlets fought back to salvage a 10-10 draw against Leinster two weeks ago.

What’s at stake?

Scarlets are three points behind Conference B leaders Leinster, but with just four games of the regular season remaining, they can’t afford to lose any ground if they hope to host a semi-final in the Guinness Pro14 Final Series.

That is even more the case for Munster, who are 11 points behind Glasgow Warriors in Conference A having played a game more.

But victory on home turf would be a big step towards reaching the quarter finals at least, especially with Toyota Cheetahs and Cardiff Blues snapping at their heels behind them.

Team news (Munster)

Munster head coach Johann van Graan welcomes back Ireland internationals John Ryan and Ian Keatley, at tighthead prop and fly-half respectively, following the conclusion of the Six Nations.

There are four other changes to the side that lost at BT Murrayfield last week, with Ryan making up a completely new front row that also includes Dave Kilcoyne and Rhys Marshall.

Tommy O’Donnell comes in for Conor Oliver at blindside flanker and Calvin Nash starts on the right wing, while JJ Hanrahan moves to full back, having started at No.10 last time out.

Team news (Scarlets)

Lock Tadgh Beirne will make his 50th appearance for Scarlets against the team he’ll be joining this summer, while head coach Wayne Pivac is able to recall several of his Wales internationals.

Scott Williams captains the team at centre and winger Steff Evans, fly-half Rhys Patchell and scrum-half Aled Davies also come into the backline, as does Tom Varndell.

Hooker Ryan Elias, tighthead prop Samson Lee and flankers Aaron Shingler and James Davies are the four other players to return from the Wales camp.

Talking points:

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac: “The focus this week has been getting everyone back and the integration process.

“It’s about getting our selection and our preparation right, rather than concentrating on Munster.

“It’s the first time we’ve been alive in both competition in a long time; it’s slightly different focus from the same time last year.

“We’re keeping an eye on two competitions, it’s going to be interesting to see how the boys will manage the extra pressure – a challenge I know they’re looking forward to.”

Key battle – John Ryan v Samson Lee

There is sure to be a big battle up front at Thomond Park, with two tightheads returning from the Six Nations set to play a key role at the scrum.

Ryan should be well rested, having made a couple of appearances off the bench during the Championship and he’ll want to give Munster the sort of forward dominance they demand in Limerick.

Lee played more minutes in Wales’ campaign, but he’ll be smarting about having Tomas Francis preferred to him against France last week and if he is his usual powerful self, Scarlets’ attacking game could click into gear.

Key fact: Scarlets haven’t won away from home in the Guinness Pro14 since a trip to Cardiff Blues on New Year’s Eve.

Did you know? Scarlets’ victory at Thomond Park in February 2017 was their first at the venue since September 2003.

Munster Rugby: JJ Hanrahan, Calvin Nash, Sammy Arnold, Rory Scannell, Alex Wootton, Ian Keatley, James Hart, Dave Kilcoyne, Rhys Marshall, John Ryan, Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland, Jack O’Donoghue, Tommy O’Donnell, Robin Copeland.

Replacements: Niall Scannell, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Gerbrandt Grobler, Dave O’Callaghan, Jack Stafford, Stephen Fitzgerald, Dan Goggin.

Scarlets: Tom Williams, Tom Varndell, Scott Williams, Paul Asquith, Steff Evans, Rhys Patchell, Aled Davies, Dylan Evans, Ryan Elias, Samson Lee, Tadhg Beirne, David Bulbring, Aaron Shingler, James Davies, Will Boyde

Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Phil Price, Werner Kruger, Lewis Rawlins, Josh Macleod, Jonathan Evans, Dan Jones, Steff Hughes

Referee: Marius Mitrea

AR1: Andrea Piardi AR2: Manuel Bottino

TMO: Matteo Liperini

TV: Sky Sports Arena (5.15pm GMT)

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start from just €35 for adults and €10 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Historical Lineup Pre Opta (sfms data) - Preview - v2

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Wootton seals win as Munster come from behind to beat Scarlets at Thomond Park

Andrew Lawton 24 Mar 2018

Munster Rugby recovered from a slow start to beat Scarlets at Thomond Park and keep them well on course for a Guinness PRO14 Finals Series berth.

Scarlets started the stronger of the two sides, with scrum-half Aled Davies scoring early on, but they couldn’t make their early dominance pay and Munster hit back through James Hart.

After the break, Munster were the better side and man-of-the-match Robin Copeland finished off a good period of play from a lineout, with Alex Wootton securing the win with only a few minutes remaining.

Scarlets made a blistering start to the game, running with the ball in hand at every opportunity and testing the Munster defence.

The Welsh side took the lead after just seven minutes, as Tom Williams burst through the Munster back line and picked out James Davies on his left, who found A Davies in support to fling himself over the whitewash.

Scarlets continued to press as Munster struggled to settle into the game, but the home side thought they had drawn level when Wootton intercepted inside his 22 to score.

However, the TMO adjudged that Wootton had knocked on as the ball struck his bicep in the build up to the try.

Scarlets continued to dominate the territory, punishing Munster for not kicking into the stands, taking quick lineout after quick lineout to run at the defence.

When Munster did find some territory of their own, they immediately looked threatening, with the forward pack muscling over the Scarlets try line only for the ball to be held up.

Moments later, on 27 minutes, Munster did score, with Hart forcing his way over the line, despite the best efforts of three Scarlets defenders.

The first half’s dominant side, Scarlets, sought to extend their lead before the interval, but Patchell could only strike the post with a penalty, making it 7-5 to the away side at half-time.

Munster improved after the interval and on 47 minutes they took the lead through Copeland.

Four phases of quick ball following a five-metre lineout pushed the Scarlets defence back and the No.8 picked the ball up to drive over the line.

Scarlets flanker J Davies was lucky to avoid a yellow card after a trip on Sammy Arnold as the Munster centre kicked through.

Munster then felt aggrieved to not have a third try when James Cronin burst over the try line, but the referee deemed that he was guilty of making a double movement.

The crowd grew restless and Scarlets fought to reduce the five-point deficit, with Steff Evans going close a few minutes later, dancing down the wing but unable to latch onto his kick forward.

With the game still in the balance JJ Hanrahan broke clear and set Munster off in the Scarlets 22.

After more than 12 phases of play, substitute Dan Goggin sprayed a long, looping pass out wide, over the Scarlets defenders and into the arms of Wootton, who was able to evade Tom Varndell to score and secure the win.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start from just €35 for adults and €10 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Match Page 2017-18 - Summary WP:137

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Performance WP:138