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Magners Preview: Munster v Newport Gwent Dragons

Magners Preview: Munster v Newport Gwent Dragons

Munster will have three returning 2009 Lions – Ronan O’Gara, Donncha O’Callaghan and Keith Earls -in their starting line-up and Lions Series and Tri Nations winner Jean de Villiers on the bench when they entertain the Dragons in Sunday’s Magners League encounter in Cork.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Sunday, September 27

MUNSTER (6th) v NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS (4th), Musgrave Park, 5.05pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland/S4C)

Team News: Ronan O’Gara and Donncha O’Callaghan have been named in a Munster matchday squad for the first time this season. Keith Earls also joins them in the province’s starting line-up for Sunday’s Magners League clash with the Dragons.

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Earls has been named at full-back in place of Felix Jones, who moves to the wing, with Denis Hurley on the other flank and coach Tony McGahan retaining the midfield pairing of Barry Murphy and Lifeimi Mafi.

That means Munster’s most recent arrival, Springbok centre Jean de Villiers, is set to make his debut for the province off the bench.

Skipper Paul O’Connell, who had been named in the original squad, was not considered for the game due to a slight hamstring problem.

The injury that Niall Ronan suffered in last weekend’s win over the Scarlets and the continued absence of David Wallace means Tommy O’Donnell gets to wear the number 7 jersey, while Nick Williams returns from a knee injury to anchor the scrum.

Meanwhile, Dragons boss Paul Turner has made three changes to the side that beat Glasgow Warriors 30-19 for a bonus point last weekend.

Jason Tovey is rested so Martyn Thomas comes in at full-back, while Hugh Gustafson takes over from the benched Ali McKenzie at loosehead prop and James Harris is in at openside flanker, replacing the injured Gavin Thomas.

Captain Tom Willis and giant lock Luke Charteris are also ruled out with injuries, but Hoani MacDonald is rated fit enough for a bench spot.

MUNSTER: Keith Earls; Felix Jones, Barry Murphy, Lifeimi Mafi, Denis Hurley; Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary; Marcus Horan, Denis Fogarty, Tony Buckley, Mick O’Driscoll, Donncha O’Callaghan, Alan Quinlan,Tommy O’Donnell, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Damien Varley, Julien Brugnaut, Donnacha Ryan, James Coughlan, Toby Morland, Jeremy Manning, Jean de Villiers.

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: Martyn Thomas; Aled Brew, Tom Riley, Ashley Smith (capt), Richard Fussell; James Arlidge, Wayne Evans; Hugh Gustafson, Steve Jones, Nigel Hall, Adam Jones, Rob Sidoli, Dan Lydiate, James Harris, Joe Bearman.

Replacements: Duane Goodfield, Ali McKenzie, Gethin Robinson, Grant Webb, Hoani MacDonald, Shaun Connor, Danny Lee.

Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: John Carvill, David Connolly (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Brian Fitzgerald (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 1/14; Draw: 33/1; Newport Gwent Dragons to win: 13/2

Say What: Donncha O’Callaghan (Munster) – “I can’t wait to get back into it. I’m no use watching games. I just love to be playing.

“I understand the thinking in keeping us (internationals) out of it for the opening rounds of the Magners League. And it works to our benefit.

“It’s a long season what with internationals and that, but still I’d be in there from the start if I could.

“The Dragons have started the league really well and what I’ve seen from their tapes, they’re a much more confident outfit this season.

“This is certainly their best start but they’ve always been a hard side to play against – a good, physical side up front and well able to spread the ball.

“I think they are going to be a very difficult side to play against but with a full Musgrave Park roaring us on, it will be a full-on game.

“It’s great that a player like Jean (de Villiers) has come into our squad. He is right up there with the best there is and his knowledge of the game extends right across the park.

“So of course we are going to learn from him and benefit from his experience on and off the field.”

Ashley Smith (Newport Gwent Dragons) – “I’m very proud to be captaining the Dragons again this weekend. I’m a local boy and I have had great opportunities with the region.

“There is a real buzz around Rodney Parade this season and it’s a good place to be.

“It’s always an honour to represent your local side and having come through the age-grade and academy setups, I’m confident that my future lies with the Dragons.

“Munster are always going to be a massive challenge. They have a formidable side and with the return of their Irish internationals and of course the debut of Jean de Villiers, they have an impressive teamsheet for Sunday’s game, but we are all playing for each other and that counts for a lot.”


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
Sunday, September 14, 2008 – Munster 50 Newport Gwent Dragons 6, Musgrave Park
Saturday, March 7, 2009 – Newport Gwent Dragons 9 Munster 20, Rodney Parade


– Defending Magners League champions Munster have won three of their last four games in the competition. They have won their last eight home games in all competitions including four in-a-row at Musgrave Park

– Munster have lost just one of their last 13 games against Welsh opponents in all competitions (20-12 at the Cardiff Blues on May 10 last)

– The Newport Gwent Dragons have won three of their last four games in the Magners League, but have lost five in-a-row away from home in the competition

– The Dragons’ only win in Ireland since October 2004 was a 16-14 triumph at Ulster on September 19, 2008

– Munster have won their last five encounters with the Dragons, while the men of Gwent’s only win on Munster was a 16-6 victory at Thomond Park on their first ever visit on March 12, 2004