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RaboDirect Pro12 match preview: Munster ring the changes
There are five changes in personnel for Munster when they host Ospreys at Thomond Park on Saturday in the RaboDirect Pro12.
Three of those changes unsurprising in that they accommodate the return of internationals Ronan O'Gara and Dave Kilcoyne, and skipper Doug Howlett.
The other notable change is at scrum-half where opportunity knocks for Cathal Sheridan, who makes his first competitive start for Munster.
Head coach Rob Penney continues to rotate Garryowen clubmates Damien Varley and Mike Sherry, Varley getting the nod for the number 2 jersey this time around.
Penney keeps faith with the back five selected for Treviso even though Niall Ronan was back in the mix after 80 minutes with Shannon at the weekend. Sean Dougal is preferred as back-row back up to CJ Stander who is omitted from the match day squad.
Alun Wyn Jones captains the Ospreys after returning for Wales last weekend in the national side's win over Italy in Rome.
Kahn Fotuali'i reverts back to his regular position of scrum-half with Ashley Beck's selection at inside centre pushing Tom Issacs out onto the wing.
Duncan Jones starts at loosehead prop ahead of Ryan Bevington, with Jonathan Thomas moving to number eight following the selection of Jones in the second row.
Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Doug Howlett (c), 13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11 Denis Hurley, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Cathal Sheridan, 8 James Coughlan. 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Paddy Butler, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Ian Nagle, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Damien Varley, 1 David Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 BJ Botha, 19 Dave Foley, 20 Sean Dougall, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Ivan Dineen.
Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Tom Habberfield, 13 Jonathan Spratt, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Tom Issacs, 10 Matthew Morgan, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Jonathan Thomas, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 James King, 5 Lloyd Peers, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 3 Cai Griffiths, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dwyer, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Dmitri Arhip, 19 Ian Gough, 20 Dan Baker, 21 Arthur Ellis/Sam Davies, 22 Rhyss Webb, 23 Tom Grabham
What they said...
Ospreys boss Steve Tandy
"It's important that we put in a big performance on Saturday night.
"Having suffered two defeats on the road, Munster will be happy to be back at Thomond Park where they have an enviable record and will want to secure the win that will cut the gap between us going into the final five rounds.
"With four of the last six games away from home we understand the size of the task in front of us but we believe in ability of this squad to rise to the challenge.
It's not going to be easy but they've shown throughout the season that they won't take a backward step and never know when they're beaten.
"We'll need to see that spirit in every game between now and the end of the season, they'll need to give everything for the cause, and if we see that from them then we've got a real chance of reaching the last four once again."
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Guinness PRO12 Table
|Friday 26th December|
|14:05||Cardiff Blues vs Dragons|
|17:00||Munster vs Leinster|
|18:45||Ulster vs Connacht|
|Saturday 27th December|
|14:40||Glasgow Warriors vs Edinburgh|
|17:15||Ospreys vs Scarlets|
|Sunday 28th December|
|14:00||Zebre vs Treviso|
|Thursday 1st January|
|14:05||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Cardiff Blues|
|17:00||Connacht vs Munster|
|Friday 2nd January|
|19:35||Edinburgh vs Glasgow Warriors|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|14:00||Treviso vs Zebre|
|14:40||Leinster vs Ulster|
|17:05||Scarlets vs Ospreys|
|Friday 9th January|
|19:35||Connacht vs Edinburgh|
|19:35||Glasgow vs Scarlets|
|Saturday 10th January|
|14:40||Cardiff Blues vs Leinster|
|15:00||Zebre vs Munster|
|Sunday 11th January|
|14:00||Treviso vs Ulster|
|16:00||Ospreys vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Wednesday 14th January|
|TBC||Leinster vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|TBC||Scarlets vs Connacht|
|TBC||Edinburgh vs Ospreys|
|TBC||Ulster vs Benetton Treviso|
|TBC||Zebre vs Glasgow|
|TBC||Munster vs Cardiff Blues|
|Saturday 21st February|
|TBC||Benetton Treviso vs Cardiff Blues|
|Sunday 21st December|
|Dragons 25 - 11 Zebre|
|Saturday 20th December|
|Ospreys 31 - 20 Ulster|
|Glasgow Warriors 21 - 18 Munster|
|Friday 19th December|
|Cardiff Blues 21 - 9 Scarlets|
|Edinburgh 48 - 0 Treviso|
|Leinster 21 - 11 Connacht|
|Sunday 30th November|
|Glasgow Warriors 19 - 15 Dragons|
|Saturday 29th November|
|Connacht 14 - 8 Scarlets|
|Leinster 18 - 12 Ospreys|
|Zebre 18 - 10 Edinburgh|
|Friday 28th November|
|Cardiff Blues 36 - 25 Treviso|
|Munster 21 - 20 Ulster|
|Sunday 23rd November|
|Edinburgh 28 - 13 Cardiff Blues|
|Treviso 24 - 24 Leinster|
|Friday 21st November|
|Ulster 25 - 16 Ospreys|
|Connacht 43 - 3 Zebre|
|Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow Warriors|
|Dragons 12 - 38 Munster|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com