Munster v Ospreys: Key talking points in Guinness PRO12 semi-final
By Louise Warr
Last Updated: 20/05/17 7:54pm
We take a look at the key talking points ahead of Munster's Guinness PRO12 semi-final with the Ospreys on Saturday, live on Sky Sports 1 HD from 6pm.
Since the start of the PRO12 play-offs back in 2010, the Ospreys have featured in four of the semi-finals, and three of them have been against Munster.
As it stands Steve Tandy's side have a won-two, lost-two record at this stage of the competition and will be looking to gain revenge for their 33-0 hiding against Munster in Cork last November.
Thomond Park factor
Since the introduction of semi-finals and a final after the regulation league season has ended, an away side has never won a semi-final tie.
A total of 14 semi-finals have been played since the 2009/10 campaign, yet staggeringly, all 14 have gone the way of the home sides.
Rassie Erasmus' men have proved this season once again that they are a formidable force at home, losing just one PRO12 game at Thomond Park this campaign.
The Ospreys go into Saturday's game having claimed just one win in their last five matches in domestic competition, a 24-10 victory over Ulster at home back in April.
The most recent of these defeats came last time out against the Scarlets where they were outplayed throughout, suffering a heavy 40-7 defeat.
In the matches between the two sides this season Munster reign supreme having secured a 33-0 win in November, and they broke the Ospreys' 13-game winning run on February 18 with a late 25-23 win at the Liberty Stadium.
Battle of the Lions scrum-halves
With the British and Irish Lions tour looming large for many players there will be no bigger battle come Saturday than at scrum-half.
Conor Murray goes into the match fresh and ready to go having spent a spell on the sidelines but with just over 20 minutes under his belt against Connacht two weeks ago, he will be keen to prove he is game ready ahead of an important few months ahead.
A tough and physical player with a pin-point accurate game, Munster are at their best when Murray is firing.
With many seeing the Munster man as the man in the driving seat his opposite number Rhys Webb will be looking to state his claim for the coveted starting role. Webb's form for both club and country this season has been excellent. He is a ferocious competitor with a razor-sharp breaking ability - an integral cog to his side.
Both key men with differing styles, their battle in the middle will go some way to deciding the outcome of Saturday's encounter and beyond.
The return of Alun Wyn Jones
If there is one man Ospreys will want in their corner come kick-off on Saturday it is Alun Wyn Jones.
The 31-year-old lock has been sidelined with a shoulder problem since Wales' defeat to France during the Six Nations but has been declared fit and available for his side, providing a pre-game boost of monumental proportions.
The Wales skipper has been open about his desire to get back to business for his club with head coach Steve Tandy having to step in and stop his man from featuring in the final round of the regular season.
He will be ready and raring to go come kick-off on Saturday, which will be a welcome sight to all those associated with the club.
Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Conor Murray; 1 Dave Kilcoyne, 2 Niall Scannell, 3 John Ryan, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 5 Billy Holland, 6 Peter O'Mahony (c), 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 8 CJ Stander.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 James Cronin, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Jack O'Donoghue, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Jaco Taute.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Keelan Giles, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Tom Habberfield, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb; 1 Nicky Smith, 2 Scott Baldwin, 3 Rhodri Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 6 Sam Underhill, 7 Justin Tipuric, 8 James King.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Paul James, 18 Dan Suter, 19 Lloyd Ashley, 20 Olly Cracknell, 21 Brendon Leonard, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Josh Matavesi.