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Magners Preview: Munster v Newport Gwent Dragons

Magners Preview: Munster v Newport Gwent Dragons

With half-backs aged just 21 and 22, Munster head coach Tony McGahan is hoping his youngsters can shine against the Newport Gwent Dragons and keep the province on the winning trail.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, March 5

MUNSTER (1st) v NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS (7th), Musgrave Park, 7.30pm (live RTE 2/S4C)

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Team News: There is a decidedly fresh look to the Munster team for Saturday’s Magners League match against the Newport Gwent Dragons at Musgrave Park.

The 21-year-old Conor Murray will make his first senior start for Munster alongside Declan Cusack, his 22-year-old Garryowen club-mate.

For his part, Cusack’s only other start for Munster was against Connacht last April. Also in the starting line-up of 22-year-old lock Ian Nagle and winger Simon Zebo, who will be 21 later this month.

There is plenty of experience across the province’s starting line-up in the form of Doug Howlett and Paul Warwick in the backs, and the returning Marcus Horan and Denis Fogarty, stand-in captain Mick O’Driscoll, James Coughlan and Denis Leamy up front.

In all, head coach Tony McGahan has made seven changes in personnel to the team that defeated Aironi 20-10 last Sunday.

Horan and Fogarty join the 23-year-old Stephen Archer in the front row, with Leamy’s inclusion at number 8 seeing Coughlan switch to openside flanker and Tommy O’Donnell revert to the replacements.

There are four Ireland internationals on the selected bench, including Peter Stringer who saw action in the second half at Murrayfield last Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Dragons welcome back 20-year-old flanker Toby Faletau after he withdrew from Wales’ Six Nations squad with an ankle injury.

The other changes from the team that lost the Glasgow see winger Matthew Pewtner making his first start since September after some good Premiership form, and Steve Jones leads the side in the absence of the rested Luke Charteris.

The Wales duo of Jason Tovey and Aled Brew will again look to push their international claims with a view to securing a place on the summer tour and ultimately the World Cup squad.

With his next touchdown, winger Brew will become the region’s record try scorer, overtaking Gareth Wyatt.

MUNSTER: Johne Murphy; Doug Howlett, Lifeimi Mafi, Paul Warwick, Simon Zebo; Declan Cusack, Conor Murray; Marcus Horan, Denis Fogarty, Stephen Archer, Ian Nagle, Mick O’Driscoll (capt), Donnacha Ryan, James Coughlan, Denis Leamy.

Replacements: Damien Varley, Wian du Preez, Tony Buckley, Alan Quinlan, Tommy O’Donnell, Peter Stringer, Sam Tuitupou, Danny Barnes.

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: Will Harries; Adam Hughes, Tom Riley, Pat Leach, Matthew Pewtner; Jason Tovey, Wayne Evans; Hugh Gustafson, Steve Jones (capt), Ben Castle, Scott Morgan, Rob Sidoli, Andrew Coombs, Toby Faletau, Joe Bearman.

Replacements: Lloyd Burns, Pat Palmer, Phil Price, Adam Jones, Lewis Evans, Ashley Smith, Jonathan Evans, Matthew Jones.

Referee: Peter Allan (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: David Keane, Eanna O’Dowd (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Brian Fitzgerald (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 1/7; Draw: 25/1; Newport Gwent Dragons to win: 9/2

Pre-Match Quotes: James Coughlan (Munster) – “I don’t mind what number is on my back, once I’m playing. I’m looking forward to the game and playing at Musgrave Park.

“For me, it’s very personal to play at that ground, you can hear your name being called, especially when they’re in the mood for giving a bollocking!

“The crowd are a little closer than in other grounds, but giving out or supporting you it doesn’t matter, ultimately you know they’re out to see you win.

“The Dragons tend to travel well, they’re not easy to knock off. They’ve got a few players involved with the Welsh side.

“They’ll probably come over, have a look at our team and feel they are in with a shout. As per usual, the set piece will be all important.”

Steve Jones (Newport Gwent Dragons) – “We’ve got the LV= Cup semi-final after the Munster game and hopefully with a good run-in we can push for a top-four place in the Magners League if results go our way.

“Obviously we want to be playing in the Heineken Cup and we need to be in the top-three teams to do that, but the play-offs are where you want to be at the end of the season and we’re straining to be there too.

“We always beat Munster at home and we’ve won once over there when Mike Ruddock was coach. Some people say it is a daunting place to play, but it’s great with an electric atmosphere in the ground.

“It’s an honour to play over there and hopefully we can come away with something.

“But we know we will have to get our set piece right and be solid. You can’t be giving any penalties away and you have to get the basics right. You can’t give them a sniff. You’ve got to play them at their own game.”

Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Munster – Points: Ronan O’Gara 115; Tries: Doug Howlett 4; Newport Gwent Dragons – Points: Jason Tovey 84; Tries: Aled Brew 5


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
Sunday, September 27, 2009 – Munster 27 Newport Gwent Dragons 3, Musgrave Park
Saturday, March 6, 2010 – Newport Gwent Dragons 31 Munster 22, Rodney Parade
Friday, November 26, 2010 – Newport Gwent Dragons 20 Munster 6, Rodney Parade


– Munster have won six of their last seven matches in the Magners League since November

– The Munstermen have won their last dozen home matches since the Ospreys visited Limerick in the Magners League in April 2010, and won 15-11

– The Newport Gwent Dragons are unbeaten in their last five encounters in all competitions. The Dragons’ only defeat in the Magners League in 2011 was a 21-15 reversal at the Scarlets on New Year’s Day

– The men of Gwent have won their last two matches against Munster and are going for an unprecedented third successive win over the Munstermen