Former Scarlets talisman Tadhg Beirne will make his Munster debut on Friday night – but there will be no riveting match-up against Alun Wyn Jones.
While Munster have pushed the boat out in front of their fans – with Beirne and fly-half Joey Carbery making their full debuts for the province in Cork – the Ospreys decided their ship would sail without its headline crew.
So, there is no Jones, Justin Tipuric, George North, Aled Davies or Owen Watkin after coach Allen Clarke decided to make 12 changes from the team that beat the Cheetahs last week.
Two weeks ago, Guinness Pro 14 champions Leinster were criticised in some quarters for sending a mostly second-string side to start their campaign at Cardiff Blues.
They undermined many of the accusations they were not treating the competition with sufficient regard by winning, so it will be interesting to see if the Ospreys can do the same. The odds, though, would appear to be stacked against it.
The region have lost their last five games against Munster and their last win on Irish soil was two years ago at Connacht.
The Irish provinces can’t complain about the opposition resting players, but fans on both sides of the Irish Sea can justifiably feel short-changed from these opening weeks of the season, when they compare the line-ups to what gets selected in the English Gallagher Premiership.
But James Hook – who comes into the Ospreys line-up at full-back – insists there is plenty of belief Clarke’s side can continue their winning start to the season by making it three victories in a row.
“We’ve won there a few times before and whatever squad we put out, it will be a good one,” said Hook. “They’ve got a great pack and some good backs so we know it will be tough, but if we show up, we’ll be alright.
“We’ve got a bit of confidence from two wins at home, but Munster is going to be a different challenge.
“We haven’t got the biggest squad in the world and haven’t got the best strength in depth, so Munster will test us there. On the back of a defeat to Glasgow they’ll be hungry and they won’t be happy with that performance.
“It’s a tough place to go. They’re a really competitive team and we’ve got to be right up there with our physicality and effort. You can’t give Munster anything for free out there because they’ll grab it with both hands.
“They’re quite similar to Edinburgh, not the Cheetahs with all due respect. They’ll be quite physical and come off the line quickly. They put pressure on you from set-piece and have a good kicking game, so the fact we’re playing them away from home which some of the boys might not be used to will come into it. We need to stay calm.”
Only Sam Davies, Tom Williams and Tom Botha survive from the side that thrashed the Cheetahs 46-14 last weekend. Wales centre Scott Williams has a hamstring tear while fly-half Luke Price is a long-term absentee after a leg break
Carbery and Beirne get their first starts for Munster as Peter O’Mahony and Chris Cloete return to action.
Not that Munster will worry too much if they can right the wrongs of last week’s 25-10 defeat in Glasgow.
Carbery will be the centre of attention on the new 3G surface, coming into the team for his first start after two appearances off the bench.
With Billy Holland out injured and Jean Kleyn on the bench, Beirne comes into the second-row alongside Darren O’Shea in a pack that features seven new faces after being dominated last week.
Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Sammy Arnold, Dan Goggin, Darren Sweetnam; Joey Carbery, Duncan Williams; James Cronin, Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer; Tadhg Beirne, Darren O’Shea; Peter O’Mahony (capt), Chris Cloete, Arno Botha.
Replacements: Mike Sherry, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Jean Kleyn, Tommy O’Donnell, James Hart, Ian Keatley, Jaco Taute.
Ospreys: James Hook; Tom Williams, Joe Thomas, Cory Allen, Luke Morgan; Sam Davies, Tom Habberfield; Rhodri Jones, Scott Baldwin, Tom Botha, Giorgi Nemsadze, Adam Beard, Olly Cracknell (capt), Morgan Morris, Sam Cross.
Replacements: Ifan Phillips, Nicky Smith, Alex Jeffries, James Ratti, Guido Volpi, Matthew Aubrey, Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, Hanno Dirksen.
Referee: Stuart Berry (SARU)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (IRFU), Paul Haycock (IRFU)
TMO: Simon MacDowell (IRFU)