It says a lot about Munster's longstanding legacy in the Celtic League, or the Rabodirect Pro 12 as it has now become, that they remain so feared by opponents and the betting community alike. Over the course of a long season they ended the year behind the Ospreys in the league table, they are without their two main generals in the shape of Paul O'Connell and Ronan O'Gara, they have to travel to the Liberty Stadium and yet the handicap betting market is very tight, with most oddsmakers giving the Irish province less than a converted try as their head start.
However if there is any opponent who won't fear Munster, it's the Ospreys. The Welsh side and Munster have been the kingpins in this competition since its inception, each having won the competition three times, each having made the play-offs since the new competition structure began and neither side ever left the top four this season for good measure. They've played each other 19 times in this competition, with the Welsh side shading that battle 10-9. There aren't too many teams that can boast such a healthy record against Munster over that time frame.
This year, despite all the furore over the imminent break up of the Welsh "Galacticos", they've shown even less fear of the leading Irish provinces. Despite our predictions here on betting.com, the Ospreys picked up wins at both the RDS and Thomond Park already this year and have a 7-1 record against the four Irish sides this season. Indeed their only defeat was at Ravenhill and as wagering officionados will confirm, that would still have been a winfor backers of the Welsh team on the handicap betting market .
Both sides found some form in the last few games of the season to consolidate their place in the playoffs and Munster have made a few positive changes for tonight's fixture. Ian Keatley resumes at outhalf with O'Gara available to come in off the bench if required, while Keith Earls comes back in at outside centre to bolster a back line that is solid, if not explosive. The fact that William Hill bookmakers make Earls the joint-leading Munster player in their first tryscorer betting market even though he plays in a position that would usually be fourth favourite says a lot about his value to the Reds.
Ospreys coach Steve Tandy had few choices to make for this fixture and his decision to select Samoan Kahn Fotuali'i ahead of young Welshman Rhys Webb for the scrum half slot was probably his only tricky call.
From a handicap betting point of view, the prognostication is very straight forward - back the Ospreys minus three, which is still the line with Bet365 and Hills. On a neutral venue, the Ospreys would be entitled to be rated as 1.5 points favourites, maybe even two. The absence of both O'Gara and O'Connell would shunt that up to 4.5 or 5. Now put the game in the Liberty Stadium as well? Clearly the betting firms are relying on plenty of loyalty money for the Munster men here. For this spin of the roulette wheel, we suggest a bet on black over red.
Another solid betting play could be taking Shane Williams to score a try at any time, best priced at 5/2 with Ladbrokes. The diminutive winger could very easily be playing in his last game at the Liberty Stadium and if that's the case, he'll want to give his many, many supporters something to remember. And crucially, in Shane's case, he's well capable of doing so.
Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Andrew Bishop, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Ryan Jones, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 James King, 20 Tom Smith, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Matthew Morgan, 23 Tom Isaacs.
Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Johne Murphy, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Lifeimi Mafi, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Peter O'Mahony, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Donnacha Ryan, 5 Mick O'Driscoll, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Mike Sherry, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Denis Fogarty, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Dave O'Callaghan, 20 Paddy Butler, 21 Tomas O'Leary, 22 Ronan O'Gara, 23 Ian Dineen.