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Four to watch in the Guinness PRO12 semi-finals

Andrew Lawton

17 May 2017

The Guinness PRO12 season is once again reaching its climax, and anticipation ahead of the weekend’s semi-finals is ramping up.

But before those matches we’ve picked out a key man from each of the four teams who could make all the difference this weekend.

Munster – Billy Holland

Lock Billy Holland has been a rock in the pack for the Munster side throughout the year making the most tackles of any Munster played in the league with 221.

He’s also top of the club’s lineout wins for the 2016/17 league season with 45 and has won 11 turnovers, the same number as Jaco Taute.

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A strong performance from Holland – whose side have not lost when he’s been starting captain this term – in Munster’s most important fixture of the season to date will further underline the quality of his campaign.

Ospreys – Dan Biggar

Ospreys head to Thomond Park to face Munster knowing that the experience of Dan Biggar could be crucial.

Biggar has shared the fly-half jersey with Sam Davies throughout this year for club and country with the latter picking up the Rhino Golden Boot award.

But Biggar proved during the RBS 6 Nations he still has the appetite for the big game and is fully prepared for what the Munster atmosphere will throw at him.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge and not looking at it as a daunting task. It will be great to be a part of what Thomond Park represents on a big rugby weekend,” he said.

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“I don’t think that’s an issue for us. Times have changed a little bit since we were last in the final in this competition but the core has remained.

“We’re confident amongst ourselves. It’s just about not being overawed by the occasion on Saturday.”

Leinster Rugby – Joey Carbery

The Guinness PRO12’s Young Player of the Season, Joey Carbery, will be looking to further demonstrate the skills he possesses in one of the biggest games of his fledgling career.

The 21-year-old has scored eight tries in just 16 appearances for Leinster in the league this season, despite being on an academy contract.

Carbery has already earned three Ireland caps and will hope a strong performance in the semi-final against Scarlets can put him in pole position for a starting spot for his country’s summer tour.

But Carbery’s head coach, Stuart Lancaster, is expecting a stern test from one of the Guinness PRO12’s most in-form teams.

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“We’re coming up against a team, in my mind, they’re playing the best rugby in the Guinness PRO12 at the moment,” Lancaster said.

“They beat Ospreys by 40 points, they beat Munster away from home and they’re stacked full of Welsh internationals.

“It’s going to be incredibly tough. They quality of their performance against Ospreys was right at the top draw, one of the best of the season, so it’s one step at a time for us.”

Scarlets – Ken Owens

Captain Ken Owens has led the Scarlets with distinction so far this term, in a similar way to John Muldoon’s influence over last year’s Guinness PRO12 champions Connacht.

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The 50-cap Welsh hooker was named in this season’s Guinness PRO12 Dream Team to further emphasis the impact he’s had at Parc y Scarlets.

Since his first appearance for Scarlets a decade ago, Owens has gone on to earn 200 caps for his club and offers a wealth of knowledge and experience to his team.

The 30-year-old is not slowing down either, having recently been called up to the British & Irish Lions squad for the tour to New Zealand and could have a big impact on Scarlets’ semi-final.

The Guinness PRO12 Final takes place on May 27 at Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Fans can guarantee their place by booking their tickets via www.ticketmaster.ie