Joey Carbery will make his first start for Munster on Friday night as the southern province welcome Ospreys to Musgrave Park in Cork.
Here, we take a look at some of the major talking points ahead of the clash as Munster look to get back to winning ways after last week’s disappointing defeat away to the Glasgow Warriors in Scotstoun.
Carbery Earns First Start
After making two promising appearances from the bench in Munster’s first two PRO14 fixtures, the Auckland-born out-half will have the opportunity to dictate proceedings from the off when he starts outside Duncan Williams on Friday night.
Both of Carbery’s appearances for Munster to date have resulted in an increase in tempo in terms of attack but a new challenge faces him as he looks to bring that energy from the first minute.
Carbery’s last start at 10 came in the first Test against the Wallabies during the summer so there may be some rustiness there. However, this is the reason why he upped sticks down the M7 – to get regular game time at 10.
JJ Hanrahan started Munster’s last two games and a mistake from the Kerry native resulted in a try for Glasgow at the end of the first half last weekend. Carbery now has an opportunity to cement his place in Munster’s starting team – all the more important with the Interpros and Heineken Champions cup coming around the corner.
Opportunity For Five Points
With Ospreys enjoying a good start to the seasons with two wins from two, originally, this fixture was a potential banana skin for Munster. However, Ospreys head coach Allen Clarke has made considerable changes to his team as he rotates his injury-hit squad for the season ahead.
This presents an excellent opportunity for Munster to record their second bonus-point win of the season. No one among the players or staff will be talking about five points but it would be a welcome return after coming away with nothing from Scotstoun last weekend.
Last season the Glasgow Warriors ran away with Conference A and the southern province will need to keep the pressure on their rivals who are playing the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein this weekend.
Munster have welcomed back Peter O’Mahony and Chris Cloete to their back-row for Friday night’s clash. In the first half against Glasgow and indeed, in the first half against the Exeter Chiefs in preseason, Munster were dominated by their opponents up front and in the physicality stakes.
For a team who base their game around a solid set-piece and generating front-foot ball through dominating their opponents at the breakdown – those two 40 minutes performances were unacceptable.
O’Mahony will certainly relish the challenge of physically getting the better of Munster’s opponents while his prowess in the lineout should secure some solid ball for the men in red and the odd turnover on their opponent’s throw.
Cloete was badly missed at the end of last season and his ability to poach at the breakdown will be a weapon Munster will be grateful to have back.
Munster have a relatively clean bill of health as far as injuries are concerned. The likes of James Cronin, Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer, Darren O’Shea and Dan Goggin are all handed starts on Friday evening. It’s a perfect opportunity for them to put their hand up for selection when the serious business of the Interpros and Champions Cup come into view at the end of the month.
A competitive squad is key for success further down the line and strong performances from the aforementioned players will bode well for the season ahead.
Often last season, through injuries, Munster failed to have the desired impact from the bench if they needed to change the game. However, a quick look at the replacements tonight shows the likes of Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Jean Kleyn, Tommy O’Donnell, Ian Keatley and Jaco Taute ready to be sprung in the second-half.
Although it’s early in the season and more injuries would be expected as the campaign progresses, having this level of impact is a huge bonus for Munster and should they need it, those players can change the game if things aren’t going their way.