2nd September 2011 22:51
Tony McGahan has again underlined the importance of winning your home games as Munster look to get their RaboDirect PRO12 title defence off to a positive start against the Newport Gwent Dragons in Cork.
MUNSTER v NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS, Musgrave Park, 7.45pm (live TG4/S4C)
Team News: Munster head coach Tony McGahan has made minimal changes to a minimum to his team for Saturday’s RaboDirect PRO12 opener against the Newport Gwent Dragons.
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Johne Murphy returns from a hamstring injury to the full-back berth, while eye injury victim James Coughlan got the all-clear earlier in the week and resumes at number 8.
Experienced scrum half Peter Stringer will wear the number 9 jersey in place of Duncan Williams, who was in from the kick-off for last weekend’s pre-season win over London Irish.
Ian Nagle picked up a shoulder knock against Irish, so Billy Holland will partner Mick O’Driscoll in the engine room and Coughlan’s return means a switch for Peter O’Mahony to the blindside flanker role.
Nagle’s injury is not serious and he is expected to be in contention for next week’s game against Glasgow Warriors.
Included on what looks a particularly strong replacements bench are international duo Damien Varley and John Hayes, who is bound to be pressed into action at some stage of the evening.
Tomas O’Leary, who was originally selected as a replacement, has been withdrawn from the squad. Duncan Williams will take his place on the bench.
O’Leary continues to have lower back trouble and at this early stage of the season, the munster management rightly believe it would be unwise to rush him back into action.
Meanwhile, Dragons hooker Tom Willis will captain the region when they take on Munster in the opening round of the RaboDirect PRO12.
New signings Joe Bedford and Tom Brown will make their first league starts in Dragons colours in a team that sees eight changes from the starting line-up that faced Leeds Carnegie two weeks ago.
Darren Edwards’ side won their two pre-season games, beating Russia 40-12 and Leeds 29-13 at home in recent weeks.
Absent from the side are Wayne Evans (shoulder), Lewis Evans (calf) and Jamie Smith (back).
MUNSTER: Johne Murphy; Doug Howlett, Danny Barnes, Lifeimi Mafi, Denis Hurley; Ian Keatley, Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Mike Shery, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Mick O’Driscoll, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Niall Ronan, James Coughlan.
Replacements: Damien Varley, Wian du Preez, John Hayes, Dave Foley, Tommy O’Donnell, Duncan Williams, Scott Deasy, Simon Zebo.
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: Steffan Jones; Adam Hughes, Tom Riley, Ashley Smith, Mike Poole; Jason Tovey, Joe Bedford; Phil Price, Tom Willis (capt), Ben Castle, Adam Jones, Robert Sidoli, Andrew Coombs, Gavin Thomas, Tom Brown.
Replacements: Rhys Buckley, Nathan Williams, Dan Way, Jevon Groves, Hugo Ellis, Wayne Evans, Pat Leach, Martyn Thomas.
Referee: Stefano Penne (Italy)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Brian MacNeice (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Seamus Flannery (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 1/6; Draw: 25/1; Newport Gwent Dragons to win: 4/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Tony McGahan (Munster) – “Everything you do in pre-season (games) from our perspective is building towards the first game and then get a result.
“We haven’t been playing for points the last three weeks, this weekend we are. We’ve had a good start to our domestic campaigns over the last period of time.
“We’re at home first up, so you really need to be winning your home games and for us, that starts this weekend against the Dragons.
“If you’ve got any ambitions of being successful at the back-end of the season and being in semi-finals or in our case looking for a home semi-final, if you don’t win your home games, you’ve no chance at all.
“So, you really want to get some momentum early and winning your first home game is part of that and then collating that and bringing all your home games into the final jigsaw.”
Darren Edwards (Newport Gwent Dragons) – “Any of these three (Wayne Evans, Lewis Evans and Jamie Smith) could have made it this week but with fitness likely to play a crucial part in World Cup year, I don’t want to take any unnecessary risks.
“Munster are going to be a tough challenge, despite the players they will be missing with the Irish squad.
“I know that our record in Musgrave has not been great over the years but there is a confidence about the squad this season that enables us to only think about the game ahead rather than worrying about what has gone in the past.”
Pre-Match Multimedia Links –
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
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
Saturday, March 5, 2011 – Munster 38 Newport Gwent Dragons 17, Musgrave Park
– Reigning champions Munster finished last season with ten successive victories, but have begun the season at home just three times before and been victorious each time
– The Munstermen’s most recent home defeat in the tournament came in April 2010 when they were beaten by the Ospreys at Thomond Park
– The Newport Gwent Dragons have won their opening fixture in four of the last six seasons, but lost two of their final three matches last season. The Dragons have lost their last four games against Irish provinces
– Honours were even in the two encounters between the two sides last season, with each team winning its respective home encounter
– The Dragons, in this RaboDirect PRO12 game, will be hoping to add to their only previous win on Munster soil, a 16-6 success at Thomond Park in March 2004