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Friday 21 July 2017

Worldwide Webb on line to take Murray on in New Zealand

Ospreys’ Rhys Webb (l) and Munster’s Rory Scannell at the Guinness PRO12 semi-final launch outside the Aviva. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Ospreys’ Rhys Webb (l) and Munster’s Rory Scannell at the Guinness PRO12 semi-final launch outside the Aviva. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

The news of England scrum-half Ben Youngs' decision to stay at home to support his brother Tom's wife, as his sister-in-law faces a terminal illness, put the profession into perspective.

"Yeah, it's obviously terrible news and I have total respect for Ben," reflected Welsh scrum-half Rhys Webb.

"I sent him a message. Like Gats (Warren Gatland) always says, family comes first and I wish Tom and Ben all the best.

"I know Ben quite well through rugby and, with the family, it's a sad time."

It certainly clouded the announcement that Greig Laidlaw will become just the third Scotland international in the British & Irish Lions 41-man squad for New Zealand.

The removal of the classy Youngs does - it would seem - reduce the candidates for the three test matches from three-to-two.

Wales' Webb and Ireland's Conor Murray will work from that strange place where they will be competitors and team-mates at the same time.

First, they will be the best of enemies as Munster host the Ospreys in the Guinness PRO12 semi-final at Thomond Park on Saturday week.

"He's a big threat," stated Webb about his direct opponent.

"He's got a great kicking game and that's something Munster did quite a lot against Saracens off '9'.

"They kicked around 40 times off '9', didn't they?" he asks.

"He brings that kicking game and he's a threat when he needs to be a threat, so he's a world-class player."

The League semi-final does offer much more for Munster than one last dress rehearsal for New Zealand.

"Yeah, I think we know what they're going to do. They're very clinical in what they do.

"We know where their strengths are."

The outcome will be all about the Ospreys recapturing the from they have lost in recent weeks. If they can, it will be game-on.

If they can't, they will be blown out of the Shannon's water.

"I'm looking forward to the battle next week and then looking forward to working with him," said Webb.

"Hopefully, we can bring the best out of each other, which is going to be a very tough tour down to New Zealand."

Webb was not inclined to accept there he holds an adavantage in their personal battle from playing 'Warrenball' for Gatland.

"No, not really, Conor's been there, done it before, hasn't he?

"He's been a Lion before, so I'm kinda the underdog, I suppose," he said.

"I'm looking forward to it. I love the challenge. I'll go there.

"I'm not just going to go there and give him a pat on the back and wish him all the best for the Test match.

"I'm going to go there to push him. We've these games coming up first, but it starts from day one in the camp."

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