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Munster look to book final spot

Thursday, 18th May, 2017 1:00am

Munster have received a boost ahead of their Saturday semi-final showdown against Ospreys, with both Tyler Bleyendaal and Alex Wootton expected to be available after recovering from bicep and hamstring injuries.

Munster face Ospreys in Thomond Park in the Guinnes Pro12 Semi-Final, a repeat game at the same stage in 2015.

The Welsh men are backed by British and Irish Lions squad members Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar and Steve Tandy’s men will be prepared for a hige showdown in Limerick for a place in the final on 27 May in the Aviva Stadium.

Director of Rugby at Munster, Rassie Eramus, is more than wary of what Steve Tandy’s men will bring to the table this weekend, saying: “I think that sometimes, in local derbies, it can happen easily that one team can run away with it.

“We lost heavily in our first game against Leinster and we could have lost by much more. Derbies can bring that spice and surprise so we wouldn’t look at that game and think it’s the Ospreys side we’ll be facing.

“We have never faced them this year with the likes Alun, Rhys, Dan and Sam Davies all on board.”

Lions scrum halves Conor Murray and Marshall will come face-to-face in Limerick, however Erasmus feels that any aspirations of wearing the number 9 Test jersey in New Zealand will come second to the job at hand.

“In the back of their heads they will be thinking, ‘I’m competing with this guy for the starting spot so let’s have a proper go at one another’. But if you make it too personal it can take your focus off what you are doing and you’ll be the one to lose out because your team will be losing.

“Conor and Rhys are both experienced professionals and at the end of the day they have to be close team-mates when they go New Zealand. Even if Conor plays in the Lions squad and doesn’t make the team, he’d support Rhys. That’s the kind of guy he is.”

No host side has ever lost a Pro12 Semi-Final. Munster have enjoyed sell-out crowds across the season, both in Limerick and Cork, with Erasmus and his team keen to finish out the season on the right note.

“I know we will have excellent support again on Saturday and everything I have experienced here has been unbelievable in comparison to what I have experienced before in my life. 

“The fans have been excellent to support us not just in the highs, but in the lows as well this season.

“Our biggest incentive for performing well on Saturday is the fans. We couldn’t do it for them when they supported us against Saracens, so that will be a massive motivation for us.

“If we don’t achieve a trophy, was it an unsuccessful year? I wouldn’t say that, but it would be disappointing if we don’t at least get into a final and have a proper crack at it.

“That would be a great story to tell, especially after all the squad has been through this season,” he said.

Meanwhile, Niall Scannell, who will tour with Ireland later this summer, agrees that Munster have enjoyed a good season overall, despite the European Cup Semi-Final loss to Saracens.

“It’s been a good season as a squad, but we were very disappointed with the Saracens game.

“We didn’t show up on the day so hopefully we won’t lose two. We reviewed it quite a bit. We know what we did wrong and why we didn’t come close to beating them. It’s just about building on that.

“In games against the top teams in Europe, you get three or four chances to put away a try and we didn’t put them away.

“Saracens were clinical. When they got the chances to score they took them and that’s the difference. We were a bit conservative in our attack. When we got those chances in their 22 we didn’t take them and that’s the main thing we really learned from that game.”

As for Saturday’s game, Scannell said: “They (Ospreys) have threats all over the field, a lot of international players.

“ Webb and Biggar are probably their key men. They have been unbelievable for Ospreys and Wales the last few years so if we can shut them down, we have a pretty good chance.But we have a lot of dangerous backs ourselves.”

Munster play Ospreys in the Pro12 Semi-Final on Saturday 20 May. Kick-off at Thomond Park is at 6.15pm.

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