Thursday 23 November 2017

Not even Jones can save Ospreys' season

Guinness PRO12 semi-final Munster v Ospreys Thomond Pk, Live TG4/SS1 (KO: 6.15)

Munster's Donnacha Ryan
Munster's Donnacha Ryan

Alun Wyn Jones is to the Ospreys what Paul O'Connell was to Munster - the heart and soul.

The return to health of the British & Irish Lion is a shot in the arm and legs for the Ospreys as they look to move away from their unacceptable form of late.

Their problem is that they are meeting a Munster on a mission with all their big hitters on deck.

This will include Donnacha Ryan, who has, somehow, been allowed to leave the province for France.

The Nenagh guardian of the old school flame will be eager to show what the red shirt means to him.

Even the inclusion of the departing Francis Saili for the staying Jaco Taute is a positive.

For all the revered Munster-type factors in the South African's game, the centre does not have the speed for the top of the ground rugby at the business end of the season.

It is no coincidence that Taute's influence has waned as the year has worn on, while Saili's has grown.

The battle of the back rows could be definitive as two British & Irish Lions in CJ Stander and Peter O'Mahony take on one in Justin Tipuric.

England-bound Sam Underhill has been impressive and the flanker will relish this occasion.

After that, the respective half-backs will be charged with putting their big men in the right part of the pitch.

Munster just look too motivated and too organised to let the moment pass them by.

Munster: S Zebo; A Conway, F Saili, R Scannell, K Earls; T Bleyendaal, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan, D Ryan, B Holland, P O'Mahony (capt), T O'Donnell, CJ Stander.

Ospreys: D Evans; K Giles, K Fonotia, A Beck, T Habberfield; D Biggar, R Webb; N Smith, N Baldwin, R Jones, B Davies, AW Jones (capt), S Underhill, J Tipuric, J King.

Verdict: Munster.

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