Munster and Osprey’s meet for the fifth this season when they clash in the Magner’s league semi final at Thomond Park on Saturday, kick off 6.30pm.
Despite being in strong position’s to reach a grand final both teams have had disappointing season’s by their standards with Munster’s Heineken cup and Amlin Cup exits a demonstration of the waning standing in European rugby while the Osprey’s despite being on course to become the first team to successfully defend their league title have struggled with consistency this season.
In fact they needed a James Hook penalty 4 minutes from time to seal a 12-10 win over struggling Aironi last weekend to seal their spot but getting in is all that matters according to their hooker Huw Bennett
“By hook or by crook we got there in the latter part of the season. We didn’t get there the way we would have wanted, we definitely could have made it easier for ourselves, but we are there now.
“It’s not about the last month or six weeks where we haven’t performed well, it’s about the whole season and we’ve just about done enough to get into the top four. We need to pick our game up now from where it’s been the last few weeks and really look to make an impact in the play-offs.
Munster will be strong favorites to progress to a Grand Final especially given the famous Thomond Park atmosphere and the fact that Tony McGahan’s men boast three wins to one from the four meetings with the Ospreys in the league and Heineken Cup this season
There are players on both team’s who will be hoping that this weekend’s encounter is not there last as they look to prolong their career’s one more game in the hope of leaving with a winner’s medal.
Paul Warwick and Tony Buckley will move to France and England once this season is over while crowd favorite Alan Quinlan will be hanging up his boots come the end of the campaign.
The departures from the Ospreys are harder hitting with local players and full international James Hook, the injured Lee Byrne and Mike Philips all leaving for France.
Munster has named a strong squad for the game with Donnacha Ryan despite his inclusion the only member of the squad struggling. The return of Paul O’Connell in recent weeks will give the men in red a boost; the Munster captain has looked sharp since his recovery from an ankle injury
Tomas O’Leary’s start last week against Connacht should be enough to guarantee him a starting role on Saturday however one again it could be the boot of Ronan O’Gara which settles this match as a contest. The Cork man slotted a last minute penalty to win the game when the sides men in Wales last month.
Osprey’s player of the year, Richard Fussell will continue in the full back berth with Byrne still out injured while despite the presence of James Hook, Dan Biggar is the biggest threat to a Munster win.
Prediction: Munster to sneak it, just, once again there will be only a kick in it.