11 Dec, 16:22
Anticipation is building in the Munster camp ahead of the second half of the crucial Heineken Cup double-header against Perpignan.
So tomorrow the opportunity is there for those selected to nail down their places and to that end there's an opportune return to action for Denis Hurley while Casey Laulala gets to partner Keith Earls in the centre with Downey waiting in the wings.
Donnacha Ryan will get game time tomorrow so the onus is on Donncha O'Callaghan and Billy Hollland to lay down a clear marker and the same can be said for the starting back-rowers with Peter O'Mahony loitering with intent and the bang-in-form Sean Dougall also looking for a back row berth.
O'Callaghan is far and away the most capped forward in tomorrow's squad and is relishing the competition. "It can only be a good thing," he says, "both from a personal point of view and from a squad perspective."
"There's s huge challenge laid down. By Billy, then Donnacha Ryan on the bench, Dave Foley's there and of course Paulie not too far off either. But it's good. It's good for the team and it's good to have that quality player with their level of ambition challenging all the time. No one is guaranteed a place in this team. You have to earn it first and then work hard to keep it."
"And that's the way it should be."
Ospreys ended their barren run last weekend when they turned over the Scarlets in Llanelli, a Scarlets side who had been unbeaten up to then and whose wins included two on the road and a demolition of Leinster in Parc y Scarlets.
And that would be a very clear indicator of their current health and a pointer to the task facing Penney's side tomorrow at the Liberty.
Munster: D Hurley; D Howlett capt., K Earls, C Laulala, S Zebo; R O'Gara, C Murray; W Du Preez, M Sherry, S Archer; D O'Callaghan, B Holland; T O'Donnell, N Ronan, P Butler. Replacements: D Varley, D Kilcoyne, BJ Botha, D Ryan, P O'Mahony, P Stringer, I Keatley, J Downey.