Munster will be looking to close the gap at the top of the Guinness PRO14 Conference A as they welcome Glasgow Warriors to Irish Independent Park.
The Warriors enjoyed a 37-23 win over the Toyota Cheetahs in Round 15, while Munster lost 25-18 against the Cardiff Blues.
What’s at stake?
Conference leaders Glasgow have already secured their spot in the Guinness PRO14 Final Series thanks to their record 65 points after 15 games.
Munster are currently 16 points adrift of their opponents and will need to win on Friday night if they are to make up that ground.
A win would also help Munster to consolidate their position in the Final Series.
Team news (Munster): Head coach Johann van Graan has made 12 changes to the side that lost in Cardiff last time out.
Simon Zebo and Andrew Conway start at full-back and on the wing respectively.
Hooker Niall Scannell re-joins the forwards in a new-look front row, with James Cronin and Stephen Archer alongside him.
Billy Holland will captain the side in his 180th Munster appearance.
Team news (Glasgow Warriors): Rob Harley will become Glasgow’s most capped player when he makes his 178th appearance for the Warriors, captaining the side against Munster.
At the other end of the spectrum, Oli Kebble is making his debut for Glasgow in the front row, alongside James Malcolm and Siua Halanukonuka.
Brandon Thomson comes in at inside centre and Ratu Tagive returns on the wing.
Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie praised his captain’s achievement and said he is wary of the Munster threat.
“What Rob has achieved is phenomenal – he’s an impressive character with a massive work ethic.
“Munster clearly have aspirations to top the pool and to do that they’ll likely need to beat us this weekend.
“We’re well aware of their strengths, they’re direct and tough and have an excellent kick-chase, so we’re going to have to be disciplined and not give them opportunities to choke us.”
Key battle: Simon Zebo v Ruaridh Jackson
The two full-backs both have plenty of international experience under their belts and the outcome of their head-to-head could be decisive in which side comes away victorious.
Zebo is not involved with Ireland ahead of his move abroad, but Munster will be hoping to make the most of their all-time record try-scorer in the final months of the season and a potential title challenge.
Jackson, meanwhile, will be hoping to curry favour with Gregor Townsend as he continues to fill in at full-back in Stuart Hogg’s absence.
The Warriors have been victorious just once on visits to Irish provinces since the opening round last season, 18-12 at Connacht in Round 1 this season.
Did you know?
Glasgow beat Munster 37-10 at Scotstoun in Round 4 but have not achieved a Guinness PRO14 regular season double over the Irishmen since 2005/06.
Munster: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Sammy Arnold, Dan Goggin, Alex Wootton; Tyler Bleyendaal, James Hart; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland (c); Dave O’Callaghan, Chris Cloete, Robin Copeland.
Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Dave Kilcoyne, Brian Scott, Gerbrandt Grobler, Jack O’Donoghue, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, Calvin Nash.
Glasgow Warriors: Ruaridh Jackson, Lee Jones, Sam Johnson, Brandon Thomson, Ratu Tagive, Adam Hastings, George Horne, Oli Kebble, James Malcolm, Siua Halanukonuka, Kiran McDonald, Scott Cummings, Rob Harley (c), Matt Smith, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: Grant Stewart, Alex Allan, Zander Fagerson, Lewis Wynne, Chris Fusaro, Henry Pyrgos, Richie Vernon, Niko Matawalu.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR)
Assistant Referees: Andrea Piardi, Manuel Bottino (both FIR)
TMO: Matteo Liperini (FIR)
TV: Live on Sky Sports
Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Ticket prices start at just €35 for adults and €10 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie
Munster refused to stand on ceremony as they ensured that Rob Harley’s record-breaking Glasgow Warriors appearance ended in defeat.
Tries from Niall Scannell and James Cronin, and the boot of marksman Tyler Bleyendaal, helped the Munstermen, the second-placed side in Conference A of the Guinness PRO14, claim the scalp of the leaders.
Back-rower Harley racked up his 178th Warriors game, making more appearances for the club than anyone else, but he was unable to prevent his team from slipping to their second loss of the season.
Bleyendaal’s 10th-minute penalty saw Munster nose in front as the home side attempted to set the tone, turning the screw on the Warriors.
The visitors found themselves firmly under the cosh and their defensive bulwark was finally breached with 25 minutes on the clock, Scannell hitting the deck just in front of the line before reaching out to score the game’s first try.
Bleyendaal used the swirling wind inside Thomond Park to curl a gorgeous conversion through the posts and Munster had carved out a 10-0 lead.
Just past the half-hour mark, Alex Wootton’s superb try-saving tackle prevented Matthew Smith from finishing off a sublime Glasgow break, and then Bleyendaal added to his highlight reel with a well-executed long-range penalty.
Three minutes after the break, Adam Hastings’ penalty got Glasgow on the scoreboard at long last and, shortly afterwards, George Horne finished off a stirring Warriors move to chop away at the deficit, grabbing the visitors’ first try of the game, Hastings adding the extras.
But, with 49 minutes on the clock, Munster’s Cronin reacted quickest to seize upon a loose ball before bunding his way over the line to make it 18-10.
Calvin Nash though he had added to the hosts’ total shortly afterwards as he claimed an aerial ball before dotting down but he had narrowly gone into touch as he finished, letting Glasgow off the hook.
With 18 minutes to go, Bleyendaal booted his team into an 11-point lead, an advantage that they would go on to defend right through to the final whistle as Johan Van Graan’s men racked up a fine triumph.
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
22 Feb 2018
22 Feb 2018