Munster get their Magners League title defence underway with a trip to Glasgow Warriors’ home ground of Firhill Arena tonight. Tony McGahan has handed a competitive debut to Ireland ‘A’ full-back Felix Jones, while recent signings Damien Varley, Julien Brugnaut and Toby Morland could all see action off the replacements bench.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, September 4
GLASGOW WARRIORS v MUNSTER, Firhill Arena, 8pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)
Team News: New Zealanders Jeremy Manning, Doug Howlett and Lifeimi Mafi have been included in the Munster starting line-up for the champions’ Magners League opener against Glasgow Warriors at Firhill Arena.
Manning, Howlett, Mafi and Tony Buckley were in the squad for the pre-season friendly last weekend against Leicester Tigers but were late withdrawals for a game Munster lost narrowly in injury-time.
The try of the game at Welford Road was scored by Felix Jones and he retains the full back jersey, while Denis Hurley, who touched down twice against Leicester, also retains his place on the left wing with young Danny Barnes making way for Howlett on the opposite flank.
Mick O’Driscoll, who captained Munster on eight occasions last term on their way to the title, will once again lead the province into battle.
Meanwhile, three of Glasgow Warriors’ summer signings have been handed starts for their meeting with the reigning league champions.
The all-Scottish trio of scrum half Chris Cusiter, centre Peter Murchie and winger Rob Dewey have impressed head coach Sean Lineen during pre-season, playing their part in defeating London Wasps 16-15 at Firhill last weekend.
Also among those named in the side is young prop Jon Welsh who makes his first Magners League start at Firhill.
Elsewhere, Johnnie Beattie returns to the back row, re-establishing his Killer Bees’ partnership with Kelly Brown and John Barclay.
GLASGOW WARRIORS: Bernardo Stortoni; Rob Dewey, Peter Murchie, Graeme Morrison, Thom Evans; Dan Parks, Chris Cusiter; Jon Welsh, Dougie Hall, Moray Low, Tim Barker, Alastair Kellock (capt), Kelly Brown, John Barclay, Johnnie Beattie.
Replacements: Pat MacArthur, Kevin Tkachuk, Dan Turner, Richie Vernon, Mark McMillan, Ruaridh Jackson, Colin Shaw.
MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Doug Howlett, Tom Gleeson, Lifeimi Mafi, Denis Hurley; Jeremy Manning, Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Denis Fogarty, Tony Buckley, Mick O’Driscoll (capt), Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland, Niall Ronan, Denis Leamy.
Replacements: Damien Varley, Julien Brugnaut, Tommy O’Donnell, James Coughlan, Toby Morland, Scott Deasy, Barry Murphy.
Referee: James Jones (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Iain Heard, Graeme Marshall (both Scotland)
Television Match Official: Jim Yuille (Scotland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Glasgow Warriors to win: 6/5; Draw: 20/1; Munster to win: 4/6
Say What: Shaun Payne (Munster) – “We’re all looking forward to the new season now. It has been a great pre-season for all the lads and with the internationals coming back now, the squad is taking shape.
“The Academy system has been proving very successful over the last few years and this season fans can expect to see a lot of Scott Deasy, Ian Nagle, Danny Barnes and more who have come through.
“The international players come back and then they are off again as quickly. All we can do as a squad here in Munster is work as hard with the internationals when they are here, while focusing on the rest of the squad in the interim. This weekend’s game against Glasgow will show how strong this squad is.
“When you have players like we have in our squad it is easy to motivate them for games and seasons. The competition for places does that for a side.
“Players now know that when they get their chance, they must take it and hold on to it. I can’t wait to get started.”
Sean Lineen (Glasgow Warriors) – “It’s the first Magners League start for Chris Cusiter, Peter Murchie and Rob Dewey, three backs I rate very highly.
“We have three quality scrum halves and Chris has made a huge impact since he arrived here over the summer. I can’t wait to see him perform in the Magners League.
“Rob has shown his scoring potential already and you can see the quality left out of the team as a result with Hefin O’Hare and DTH van der Merwe challenging for a starting place.
“Peter Murchie is a classic case of a guy taking his chance. He is still learning but his work ethic is first-class and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do against Munster.
“Munster is a huge first-up challenge. This is where it all starts. Pre-season is pre-season and it will all count for nothing unless we perform on the pitch on Friday night.”
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, September 15, 2006 – Glasgow Warriors 24 Munster 13, Hughenden
Saturday, May 12, 2007 – Munster 38 Glasgow Warriors 20, Musgrave Park
Friday, October 26, 2007 – Glasgow Warriors 11 Munster 11, Firhill Arena
Saturday, May 10, 2008 – Munster 18 Glasgow Warriors 21, Musgrave Park
Saturday, October 4, 2008 – Munster 25 Glasgow Warriors 17, Thomond Park Stadium
Friday, March 27, 2009 – Glasgow Warriors 13 Munster 26, Firhill Arena
– Glasgow Warriors have won only one of their last five season openers (12-6 at the Dragons this time last year). The Warriors finished off their last campaign with a 30-9 victory at home to Connacht
– The defending Magners League champion team have begun their title defence away from home for the past three seasons, with the Ospreys and Leinster both slipping up at the Cardiff Blues in 2007 and 2008 respectively
– Munster, themselves, have begun their campaign with a victory in three of the past four seasons. The province won all four games against the Scottish sides last season
– Glasgow’s only win in their last five encounters with Munster was a 21-18 success at Musgrave Park in May 2008