Written by Conal Lane
Less than a fortnight ago the emotional kaleidoscope that was Munster vs Glasgow took place, itself barely a week after the shellshocking news that Anthony Foley had passed away on the morning of what was due to be Munster’s first Champions Cup game of the season. Munster’s season almost re-started on that awful day, and two wins from two so far, both typical Munster victories, albeit at polar opposites of the entertainment spectrum. A Rory Scannell drop goal handed Munster a smash and grab victory in Ravenhill last Friday night, but hey, a win is a win is a win ( See 1-0 to the Arsenal for further details). This week brings the Ospreys to Musgrave Park, an Ospreys side shorn of no less than twelve of their international players. The Welshmen have won just two of their last dozen encounters against Irish provinces, but the last six meetings between the two sides have been evenly split with three wins apiece – whilst Ospreys have lost on just two of their last six visits to Munster.
The men in red have a number of key men missing out too, but thankfully and perhaps sensibly, Peter O’Mahony has not traveled to Chicago and will likely complete 80 minutes this weekend followed by the same tally against Canada as he continues to battle back after a full year on the sidelines. A victory is vital for the men in red as they look to a keep the momentum of their last couple of fixtures going.
Munster: Tommy O’Donnell, Jaco Taute
One of a few proud Tipperary men to pull on the red jersey, O’Donnell has practically painted the number 7 on his back the last couple of seasons. An excellent ruck and turnover operator he is nigh on impossible to shunt off the ball from the jackal position. Will feel somewhat aggrieved not to be involved in Chicago this weekend, especially considering the ineptitude of Jordi Murphy as an openside. Lets hope however that he can transfer some of that rage into another barnstorming performance this Friday night.
In essence, Jaco Taute is what Munster had hoped for with the signing of Jean de Villiers in 2009, unfortunately that didn’t work out for player or province, shit happens I guess. Taute on the other hand, if he hadn’t already endeared himself to the Munster faithful with a couple of impactful appearances, absolutely burst onto the scene against Glasgow in that bittersweet yet thrilling victory. Thundering out of the defensive line to put in some huge hits early on, beating his chest in wild celebration after running in an early try and being a constant forward threat with ball in hand. Can we keep him Mr Nucifora, pretty please?
Ospreys: Eli Walker, Paul James
Once capped Welsh international Eli Walker is one of but a few experienced heads in this weekends Ospreys side. The speedy winger has notched up a half century of caps for his region, with a haul of 15 tries a respectable enough tally at Pro12 level. Extremely quick off the mark, but a little lightweight and underpowered is probable testament to only a single national appearance. Will look to engage Ronan O’Mahony in straight up foot races all day and avoid the nitty gritty fringe contact.
Like Tommy O’Donnell above, Paul James must rightly feel aggrieved to have missed out on national selection for this years November tests. A longtime servant and veteran of two World Cups, the 34 year old loosehead is far from past his prime as a front rower. Will relish this weekends clash again a Stephen Archer who may be a little ring-rusty. James is powerful in the scrum and a decent, if a little less mobile than years previous, operator in the loose
With this being the first trip to Cork since Axel’s tragic passing, I believe the Musgrave Park faithful will want to put a little tribute of their own to the great man, if only by raising the noise levels. That said, even with their international players unavailable, the ospreys will be no mugs. I do believe that the squad depth of the men in red will be enough to see them over the line.
Munster by 5