Belfast Telegraph

Munster handed major opportunity as Ospreys make changes


Top players: Johann van Graan is putting out strong team
Top players: Johann van Graan is putting out strong team

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Johann Van Graan has ensured that the dignitaries in the stand will get a glimpse of stardust on the new Irish Independent Park pitch tonight. Ospreys didn't get the memo.

The Cork venue rarely gets the big games, but on paper this looked like a meaty early-season fixture for the locals to get behind. Then Ulsterman Allen Clarke left Alun-Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and George North in Wales.

So, Joey Carbery and Tadhg Beirne get their first starts as Peter O'Mahony and Chris Cloete return to action in what is sure to be a home win.

The Irish provinces can't complain about the opposition resting players, but fans on both sides of the Irish Sea can justifiably feel short-changed.

Not that Munster will worry too much if they can right the wrongs of last week's first-half malfunction in Glasgow.

It was the kind of performance that rarely happens on O'Mahony's watch and last summer's Ireland captain will look to set the tone early with his customary edge on a rare appearance on home soil.

Carbery will be the centre of attention on the new 3G surface, coming into the team for his first start after two decent performances off the bench.

Notably, JJ Hanrahan drops out of the squad altogether as Ian Keatley comes on to the bench.

With Billy Holland out injured and Jean Kleyn on the bench, Beirne comes into the second-row alongside Darren O'Shea in a pack that features seven new faces after being dominated last week.

Andrew Conway is another to make a seasonal debut and interestingly he comes on to the wing as new recruit Mike Haley hangs on to the No 15 shirt.

Conference rivals Ospreys make 12 changes to the side that started the season with two wins and former Ireland U-20s and Ulster assistant coach Clarke says the alterations are merited.

But with so much star power back in Wales, the chances of a third victory in a row has receded greatly for the Swansea-based region.

Meanwhile, Andy Friend has brought the good vibes back to Connacht and tonight he takes his show on the road for the first time.

With Kieran Marmion back in the No 9 slot and Bundee Aki on the bench, the Australian is dealing with a decent hand as he takes his team to Murrayfield to face a win-less Edinburgh side.

Quite how Richard Cockerill's side are in that position is a bit of a mystery, however, and they'll be desperate to right some wrongs after throwing away victory against Ulster in Belfast last weekend.

The former England hooker said: "In the end we got what we deserved on Friday because you have to control the key moments.

"We need to make sure we do our things better, so that we are not relying on an official's call in the 82nd minute falling our way. We can be better than that.

"We're at home and Connacht are not dissimilar to ourselves and we need to make sure we play really well.

"What I want is to get the same performance that we got on Friday. If we do that we'll win."

Belfast Telegraph

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