TYLER Ardron believes Ospreys can reach their first Pro12 final since 2012, and the young second row is also relishing his personal battle against Munster legend Paul O’Connell on his first visit to Thomond Park, as his side take on the Irish province in the semi-final.
“I’ll enjoy going up against Paul O’Connell – he’s one of the best. Technically, his set-piece is up there with the best in the world, and even in the later stage of his career he seems to have upped his attacking game,” said Ardron.
“I have missed our games at Thomond Park two years in a row. The boys tell me it’s a great atmosphere, that even if you are an away team, you draw from it.
“I don’t think we’ll get intimidated by it. It’s a young team and we are more excited about the prospect of going there rather than intimidated.
“They are well-rounded, a well-drilled team with a few guys across all positions who can pose serious threats.
“But we are very confident. Whatever the outcome it is going to be a very good experience.”
Despite making the Pro12 top four in five of the last six seasons, Munster have won only one of their last nine semi-finals in all competitions since 2008 – an 18-11 win against Ospreys in 2011.
The hosts’ chances of improving that record are enhanced by the return of captain Peter O’Mahony and fellow Ireland international Simon Zebo from their respective injuries.
Full-back Felix Jones is confident his side can negate Ospreys’ own international stars to reverse recent history between the sides.
“It’s great to be in the play-offs and to be playing at Thomond Park,” said Jones. “Ospreys are an impressive side with talent right across the pitch including some world-class Welsh internationals.
“They have already beaten us twice this season and are unlucky not to have a home semi-final.
“To ship a defeat so early in the season was a tough one to take but that is testament to how good a side Ospreys are.
“We have grown since then and we get another chance at them this weekend so it’s important that we turn up and put in the performance that we’re capable of.”