Alun Wyn Jones returns to lead way for Ospreys
THE Ospreys will look to Alun Wyn Jones and his chief lieutenants for a lead when they head for Limerick to take on Munster on Saturday evening.
Still building his match fitness after his lengthy spell out with injury, Jones was yesterday released back to the Ospreys by Wales for the important Pro12 encounter.
The second row will look to top up his match fitness ahead of selection for the Six Nations encounter with Scotland at Murrayfield on March 9.
Rob Howley has also made James King available for the Munster game, but Ryan Bevington has been kept with the national squad as Paul James is set for club duty with Bath and Gethin Jenkins is carrying an injury.
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The Ospreys will travel to Ireland knowing they can't afford to drop many more points if they are to finish in the Pro12's top four and make the play-offs.
And they are looking to their senior players to point the way forward at one of the league's most testing venues for visiting sides.
"Experience counts at a place like this, so we need Alun Wyn and the others to step forward," said assistant coach Jonathan Humphreys. "We are looking to people like Kahn Fotuali'i, Jonathan Thomas and Richard Fussell, who has been amazing for us all year, with the amount of novice wingers he's had to juggle around with and try to get the best out of.
"It's also a massive occasion for Ashley Beck. It's these situations, coming back from injury, when he needs to step up and show his class."
Munster have slipped off the pace in the battle for the Pro12 play-offs, five points behind the fifth-placed Scarlets, with the Ospreys fourth.
But a win for the Irish province this weekend could propel them back into the reckoning, and the Ospreys are expecting a testing encounter.
Humphreys said: "We've played against Munster many, many times and while they are going to be disappointed with their two away losses of late, they are back home in Limerick and are a different team there.
"We understand how difficult it will be.
"But we need points.
"Last week's win over Edinburgh was very important because these are really testing times for the squad, with so many people out.
"It's important we are in a position to challenge at the end of the season for a position in the top four. If we hadn't got a result against Edinburgh, we'd have been really struggling."
Before naming their side, the Ospreys will check on the fitness of a number of players, including Thomas and Duncan Jones.