Richard Hibbard says the Ospreys are in for a 'fierce encounter' when Munster visit the Liberty Stadium for a top of the table RaboDirect PRO12 clash on Saturday (KO 6.30pm).
The powerful hooker, now fully recovered from the ankle injury that kept him out of the Rugby World Cup, is a veteran of 11 games against the Munstermen, and as he prepares for the 12th this weekend he acknowledged that every game against the twice Heineken Cup winners is a battle.
“Whenever you play Munster you know it’s going to be a difficult one” he said.
“League position never comes into it. Ospreys v Munster is always a tough game. We beat them at their place this season, which was a great result for us, but we know that will get them fired up big time for this weekend. Like it always is when we play each other, I’m expecting it to be a pretty fierce encounter.”
Munster have named a travelling squad packed with big names and stars of world rugby, and although Hibbard recognises that the Irish province will no doubt fancy their chances of a rare Liberty Stadium victory he has belief in the Ospreys squad to retain their unbeaten home record:
“Definitely, they’ll look at the teamsheet and I’ve no doubt that will be the case. They’ll target it but I think that the boys who are left behind here have really stood up this season, during the World Cup and again last week.
“We’ve got a strong core here and a good mix of experience and youngsters in the team at the moment and there’s a good buzz about the place this week. Everyone is looking forward to this game, which will be a test for the group, but we’ve fronted up as a team and will do again on Saturday.”
The Ospreys currently sit at the top of the PRO12 going into the game against third placed Munster, just two points behind, but Hibbard points out that even though the team are flying high in the table, there is plenty of room for improvement and nobody is getting complacent. He said:
“We’ve got a decent record, seven wins and a draw from nine, and we’ve gone and won in some pretty tough places this season, including Munster. Last week in Connacht it was a tough game in difficult conditions and it was good test of where we are as a squad at the moment. I think some of the young boys are maturing well, learning how to play at the higher level, but this will be another step up again. It’ll be exciting to see how we handle it as a team.
“The boys have got a great work ethic, they’ve been working really, really hard and although this team isn’t the finished article in terms of performances yet, you can’t argue with results. While we want to get sharper, get more accurate on the pitch, we know it’s going to be a real battle on Saturday and we’ll take a win over Munster anytime, however it comes.”