Munster and Ospreys lock horns in Limerick
December 9, 2010
Sam Tuitupou returns to action for Munster © PA Photos
Munster and Ospreys will both be looking to take command of Pool 3 when they go head-to-head at Thomond Park on Sunday afternoon.
Munster currently enjoy a one-point lead over their Welsh foes after responding to a narrow defeat by London Irish with a devastating rout of big-spending Toulon in round two.
The Ospreys also started with a defeat, away to Toulon, before bouncing back with a commanding victory over the Exiles, thus leaving the pool beautifully balanced ahead of their potentially decisive home-and-away clashes with two-time champions Munster.
Munster - Player to Watch: Winger Doug Howlett rolled back the years against Toulon last time out and the former All Black can always be relied on to finish any opportunity that comes his way in tight games.
Munster - Team News: Tomas O'Leary gets the nod ahead of Peter Stringer at scrum-half, while in a midfield reshuffle, Sam Tuitupou returns at inside centre with Johne Murphy moving to the wing. James Coughlan gets a start at blindside ahead of Alan Quinlan. Paul O'Connell continues his recovery from a groin problem with a place on the bench.
Ospreys - Player to Watch: James Hook's future is up in the air but he has a massive part to play if the Ospreys are to have a successful second half to the season. The Wales playmaker is back in the No.12 jersey and will be hoping to unlock a burly Munster midfield.
Ospreys - Team News: The Ospreys have taken the bold step of naming banned flanker Marty Holah in their side pending an appeal on Friday. The former All Black has been bracketed with Justin Tipuric at openside. Ryan Jones is retained in the second-row. With Shane Williams sidelined for the foreseeable future, Richard Fussell comes into the side to make his Heineken Cup debut for the region.
Key Battle: As always at Thomond Park, the forward battle will be crucial. Jones must pull his weight in the second-row and any possible recall for Holah would be an undoubted boost as the visitors look to tame Munster's fiery pack.
Trivia: Despite their Magners League strides against Munster last season, the Ospreys have never beaten their rivals on the European stage.
Stats: Ronan O'Gara has been Munster's highest points-scorer in Europe for the last 11 seasons.
"We're at home first up so there's a lot of pressure on us. You have to make sure you win your games at home and don't have to chase and catch up points. So if we can get the result this week, we can turn up the heat on them next week. Whether you're away or home, to get the first win is really important." - Munster boss Tony McGahan wants to hit the ground running.
"Barry Davies had his first full 80 minutes last weekend, Richard Fussell has been in excellent form and is looking a real threat every time he gets the ball, while Justin Tipuric is really blossoming, so we won't be looking at the negatives, only the positives." - Ospreys forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys looks at the positives from their injury problems.
Prediction: Shorn of several leading names and with their poor record at Thomond Park still an issue, the Ospreys could struggle. Munster will want another big performance on home soil and to deny their rivals a vital losing bonus point.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton
Cards, kicks, slips and scores: It's The Week in Pictures, the finest snaps from the last seven days of rugby
Huw Richards Rewinds to 1975 when three Welsh legends were handed their debuts and assesses their legacy
Seven places in the Champions Cup quarter-finals are up for grabs; we break down the permutations for each group in the final round of matches