Blues and Munster eye play-off berth
May 7, 2010
Blues loose-head Gethin Jenkins will face Munster despite concerns over an ankle injury © Getty Images
Cardiff Blues and Munster go head-to-head in the final round of the Magners League on Sunday with a place in the post-season up for grabs.
Victory for either side should see them claim the final available place in the inaugural end-of-season play-offs although if that happens to be Cardiff Blues they must also hope that Edinburgh do not claim a five-point haul against Leinster at the RDS and pip them to fourth place. However, Edinburgh are unlikely to get things all their own way against the league leaders who are looking to secure a home tie in the final four. Both games will kick off at the same time on Sunday afternoon.
Munster can also secure a semi-final at Thomond Park should they claim a victory although that scenario is unlikely as the Ospreys and Glasgow face clashes against the Dragons and the Scarlets respectively whose seasons are now over.
The Irish province's 18-12 victory at Connacht last time out ended a five game losing run away from home in the Magners League and as a result they lie four points ahead of the Blues in the table and only require two more points to guarantee their participation in the post-season. They face a Blues side that have won their last six matches in all competitions but the region, who will tackle Toulon in the European Challenge Cup Final later this month, have never won seven successive games since their formation in 2003. The last four meetings between the sides have all been won by the home side and Munster's last victorious visit to Cardiff was way back in 2005 they beat the Blues 18-16.
Blues boss David Young has kept faith with the side that defeated London Wasps in last weekend's Challenge Cup semi final with just one enforced change that sees Scott Andrews start at tight-head in the place of Taufa'ao Filise who is suffering with a groin injury. Loose-head prop Gethin Jenkins starts despite concerns over an ankle problem but scrum-half Richie Rees remains sidelined by injury.
Young admitted earlier this week that European success is his side's top priority but his selection hints that he has no intention of conceding defeat in the battle for domestic glory. I'd love to win the Amlin, it's a European competition and we've worked really hard to get there," said the Blues boss. "From our point of view we will not be looking to rest a number of players, as we want to be in the play-offs also, however with the Amlin Cup final around the corner we are not going to risk some players who may be carrying bumps."
Munster suffered a blow with centre Keith Earls ruled out of the game following a recurrence of a groin strain that has troubled the Ireland international in the last few weeks. His withdrawal has forced coach Tony McGahan to reshuffle his side with Lifeimi Mafi moving into the centre to partner Jean de Villiers, and Tom Gleeson taking Mafi's place on the wing. Mick O'Driscoll misses out with an ankle injury as does Jerry Flannery, while John Hayes is rested giving Tony Buckley the opportunity to impress from the off.
Cardiff Blues: Ben Blair; Leigh Halfpenny, Casey Laulala, Jamie Roberts, Chris Czekaj; Ceri Sweeney, Darren Allinson; Gethin Jenkins, T Rhys Thomas, Scott Andrews, Deiniol Jones, Paul Tito (c), Maama Molitika, Martyn Williams, Xavier Rush
Replacements: Gareth Williams, John Yapp, Bradley Davies, Sam Warburton, Lloyd Williams, Dai Flanagan, Dafydd Hewitt
Munster: Scott Deasy, Denis Hurley, Lifeimi Mafi, Jean de Villiers, Tom Gleeson, Ronan O'Gara, Peter Stringer, Marcus Horan, Damien Varley, Tony Buckley, Donncha O'Callaghan, Billy Holland, Nick Williams, Niall Ronan, David Wallace
Replacements: Mike Sherry, Dave Ryan, Alan Quinlan, James Coughlan, Tomas O'Leary, Paul Warwick, Danny Barnes.
Referee: Peter Allan (SRU)
Assistant Referees: Hugh Watkins (WRU), Simon Harris (WRU).
The reopening of the openside debate, a dominant wolf-pack and a sublime performance in defeat - Monday Maul looks at the weekend's talking points
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Rugby Championship alongside the best photographs from around the domestic game
Amy Perrett, the Australian referee who whistled the Women's Rugby World Cup final after handling only six Tests, talks to Jamie Lyall
John Griffiths digs into the distant past to try to establish the identity of an England international whose life is a virtual mystery