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Magners Preview: Munster v Newport Gwent Dragons

Magners Preview: Munster v Newport Gwent Dragons

Having won away to Edinburgh last week, European champions Munster are back in the familiar surroundings of Cork this weekend as they entertain the Newport Gwent Dragons, a team who have not won in Ireland for four years.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Sunday, September 14

MUNSTER v NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS, Musgrave Park, 6pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland/S4C)

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Team News: For his first competitive home match as Munster coach, Tony McGahan has made just one change to the 22-man squad that featured in last week’s opening win over Edinburgh at Murrayfield.

Munster will bid to maintain their 100% start to the league campaign when they clash with the Newport Gwent Dragons at a sold-out Musgrave Park on Sunday evening.

That one change sees Denis Hurley return to the matchday squad with Rua Tipoki making way – although Hurley has to content himself with a place on the replacements bench as McGahan pairs the fit-again Barry Murphy with Lifeimi Mafi in midfield.

Paul Warwick starts at number 10, with Ronan O’Gara waiting in the wings.

Up front, Mick O’Driscoll gets in ahead of Paul O’Connell and the Corkman will captain the side.

Frankie Sheahan also gets to start on this occasion with Jerry Flannery demoted to a very strong-looking bench.

Meanwhile, Newport Gwent Dragons coach Paul Turner has made seven changes in personnel to the side he selected for last Wednesday’s 27-25 reversal against the Scarlets.

Rhodri Gomer Davies, Ashley Smith and Shaun Connor come in for Phil Dollman (injured), Marc Stcherbina and Richard Fussell in a rejigged back-line.

Dollman’s unavailability sees Japan international James Arlidge switched to full-back, with former Ospreys player Connor taking over at number 10.

Both back from injury, Gomer Davies and Smith form a new centre partnership.

Up front, Hugh Gustafson starts at loosehead prop instead of Adam Black and there is a completely new back row unit in Dan Lydiate, Jamie Ringer and Grant Webb.

Young flanker Lydiate is fit for selection for the first time since he sustained a neck injury against Perpignan last November.

Ringer, the former Cardiff, Bridgend and Neath forward, will become only the second player to reach 100 caps for the Dragons.

MUNSTER: Keith Earls; Doug Howlett, Barry Murphy, Lifeimi Mafi, Ian Dowling; Paul Warwick, Tomas O’Leary; Federico Pucciariello, Frankie Sheahan, Tony Buckley, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll (capt), Donnacha Ryan, John O’Sullivan, David Wallace.

Replacements: Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, Paul O’Connell, Justin Melck, Peter Stringer, Ronan O’Gara, Denis Hurley.

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: James Arlidge; Rory Sidey, Rhodri Gomer Davies, Ashley Smith, Tal Selley; Shaun Connor, Wayne Evans; Hugh Gustafson, Tom Willis (capt), Rhys Thomas, Adam Jones, Luke Charteris, Dan Lydiate, Jamie Ringer, Grant Webb.

Replacements: Steve Jones, Adam Black, Gethin Robinson, Adam Brown, Joe Bearman, Richard Fussell, Rob Lewis.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Touch Judges: David Keane, John Carvill (both Ireland)
TMO: John Sheehan (Ireland)

Say What: Shaun Payne (Munster) – “It’s the first time in a few years that we actually have the international players available to us for early Magners League games. The IRFU is happy to have them play because they have been able to fully complete the programmes.

“Certainly it’s a boost. Okay, we can’t and won’t put out our top team in every game, there will be lots of opportunity for everyone, but it does give us a chance to experiment with younger players alongside older and more experienced guys.

?Last year it wasn’t very satisfactory to go into games without nine internationals and expect people to fill those gaps all at once.

“I think it says something when Denis (Hurley), who broke into the side to win a Heineken Cup medal last year, was excluded for last week’s visit to Edinburgh.

“He’s back this week but it’s great to see the competition there. Barry (Murphy) is back in top form and Anthony (Horgan) successfully came through his pre-season programme and is performing at a top level.

“Last week, Keith Earls had a pretty special game. He did just about everything right and for me was a revelation. He’s only going to get better.”

Luke Charteris (Dragons) – “The whole Munster pack is full of international stars, so it’s a big test for us, but playing them is probably a blessing because we can get back out there and try to put two halves together like the first against the Scarlets.

“If we can do that we are more than capable of winning. We have done that before (they beat Munster in Limerick in their first season) and we can do it again.

“We’re all feeling pretty crap (after the Scarlets game), but we know we are capable of playing like we did in the first half on Wednesday. It’s pointless if we don’t win, though.

“We’ve got the players and the skills and we can go out there and kick start our season.

“Munster will put us under pressure and if we cough the ball up like we did against the Scarlets we won’t stand a chance. But we’ve definitely got a team capable of winning.”

Top Scorers: 2008/09 Magners League – Points: Munster: Ronan O’Gara 10; Dragons: James Arlidge 13; Tries: Munster: Keith Earls, David Wallace 1 each; Dragons: Richard Fussell, Tom Willism Lewis Evans 1 each.


Saturday, January 28, 2006 – Munster 10 Newport Gwent Dragons 8, Musgrave Park
Friday, April 7, 2006 – Newport Gwent Dragons 23 Munster 17, Rodney Parade
Friday, January 5, 2007 – Newport Gwent Dragons 19 Munster 12, Rodney Parade
Saturday, April 28, 2007 – Munster 15 Newport Gwent Dragons 7, Musgrave Park
Friday, September 28, 2007 – Newport Gwent Dragons 16 Munster 26, Rodney Parade
Saturday, November 24, 2007 – Munster 45 Newport Gwent Dragons 19, Musgrave Park


– Munster lost their last home game in the Magners League – 21-18 to Glasgow Warriors in Cork on May 10 last, but have not lost back-to-back home matches in the league since the 2003/04 season

– Since March 2003, the only visiting Welsh team to win on Munster soil is the Cardiff Blues, who did so twice in 2007

– The Dragons have lost their last four away games in all competitions since their 18-16 victory at Glasgow on January 4

– The Dragons have lost on their last 16 visits to Ireland in all competitions since a 28-21 win over Ulster at Ravenhill on October 8, 2004

– Munster have won their last three matches against the Newport Gwent Dragons