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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Munster v Newport Gwent Dragons

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Munster v Newport Gwent Dragons

Munster’s two-match trip to Italy did not go entirely to plan as they fell to Benetton Treviso and shipped a couple of unfortunate injuries. They are back in Cork this weekend to see how they fare against an improving Dragons outfit.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, September 28

MUNSTER (3rd) v NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS (4th), Musgrave Park, 6.45pm (live www.rte.ie/S4C/full deferred coverage RTÉ Two)

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Team News: Munster head coach Rob Penney has included Paul O’Connell on the replacements bench to face the Newport Gwent Dragons in the RaboDirect PRO12 at Musgrave Park on Saturday.

Following a promising first outing in the league against Edinburgh, James Cronin has been selected to start at loosehead prop alongside hooker Damien Varley and John Ryan in the front row.

Keith Earls shifts in from the wing to start in the number 13 jersey in a new centre partnership with Ivan Dineen.

Felix Jones is also in line to make his first appearance of the season after recovering from shoulder surgery. He is named amongst the replacements, as is O’Connell who has not played since fracturing his right forearm during the Lions tour in the summer.

Varley is eager to banish memories of Munster’s defeat away to Benetton Treviso last time out, stating: “It was a very disappointing result that we were gutted.

“We had it in our grasp when (we were) ten points up, but obviously we have to take it on the chin and regroup this week with a few big matches coming up. You can’t win a game when you have four guys in the sin-bin.”

The Garryowen clubman has had some time to experience the new scrum laws, so what does he make of them so far?

“The purpose of the new laws is to stop the amount of collapses of the last few years and I think it has certainly helped,” admitted Varley.

“Scrummaging is such a technical area that I think it will take a number of weeks for referees and teams to get used to it.

“It has gone back to ‘old school’ hooking skills and that’s not a bad thing for guys who like to scrummage, so it’s a new skill for a lot of young guys and hopefully a strength of our game.”

Meanwhile, the Dragons secured a 23-16 derby verdict over the Scarlets in round 3 and will be looking to gain their first win away from home against Munster.

Matthew Pewtner steps in on the right wing as Tom Prydie moves across to the left. The centre pairing of Ross Wardle and Jack Dixon stays intact after impressing Dragons boss Lyn Jones against the Scarlets.

Italian international out-half Kris Burton will wear the number 10 jersey as top scorer Jason Tovey drops to the replacements bench, while young gun Jonathan Evans takes over from Richie Rees at scrum half.

The front row gets a shake up with Phil Price and Hugh Gustafson both included. Francisco Chaparro takes on the tighthead prop spot, whereas the second row stays the same with Andrew Coombs captaining the region.

As for the replacements, promising youngsters Sam Parry and Ieuan Jones will be hoping for game-time alongside Owen Evans, Dan Way, Rob Sidoli and Adam Hughes. 

MUNSTER: Johne Murphy; Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Ivan Dineen, Simon Zebo; JJ Hanrahan, Cathal Sheridan; James Cronin, Damien Varley, John Ryan, Donncha O’Callaghan, David Foley, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Sean Dougall, Paddy Butler.

Replacements: Mike Sherry, David Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Paul O’Connell, CJ Stander, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, Felix Jones.

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: Dan Evans; Matthew Pewtner, Ross Wardle, Jack Dixon, Tom Prydie; Kris Burton, Jonathan Evans; Phil Price, Hugh Gustafson, Francisco Chaparro, Andrew Coombs (capt), Matthew Screech, Jevon Groves, Lewis Evans, Netani Talei.

Replacements: Sam Parry, Owen Evans, Dan Way, Rob Sidoli, Ieuan Jones, Richie Rees, Jason Tovey, Adam Hughes.

Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher, Gary Glennon (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Jude Quinn (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 1/14; Draw: 28/1; Newport Gwent Dragons to win: 7/1

Pre-Match Quotes: Johne Murphy (Munster) – “This season has been completely different to where I was last year with the injury. I had an injury-free pre-season and I think I’ve started pretty well. It’s about continuing that form and trying to kick on even more and really nailing down a spot.

“One of my main goals this year was to get as fit as I could because it was my first injury-free pre-season, so I could really go after things.

“There’s so much competition. Felix is kind of back in the mix and guys like that. So it’s really important for everyone and especially on an individual level, it’s huge for me.

“This will be a big test, a big physical test. The Dragons bring a lot in defence especially with their line speed, so we’ll have to combat that with our execution and pick that up massively compared to where we were last week.”

Jonathan Evans (Newport Gwent Dragons) – “I saw all the reports about Richie (Rees) and how well he played. It is a little bit of pressure on myself to follow up a performance as good as that is going to be really hard.

“But I need to concentrate on my own game, concentrate on the basics and make sure that I don’t make any mistakes. Lyn (Jones) has given me the chance to prove myself too, and I am going to try and take it.

“Richie has come in and he is an experienced player. He played brilliantly in the first three games…I have taken every opportunity I have had and put all the effort I can in training and now I have the opportunity I have to take the chance. It’s just the way it goes.

“Richie and Wayne (Evans) are both helping me with my game – competition is always good in this scenario as it always brings out the best in players and I am just going to try and rise to that.”

Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Munster – Points: JJ Hanrahan 28; Tries: CJ Stander 2; Newport Gwent Dragons – Points: Jason Tovey 27; Tries: Richie Rees, Phil Price, Dan Evans 1 each


Friday, November 26, 2010 – Newport Gwent Dragons 20 Munster 6, Rodney Parade
Saturday, March 5, 2011 – Munster 38 Newport Gwent Dragons 17, Musgrave Park
Saturday, September 3, 2011 – Munster 20 Newport Gwent Dragons 12, Musgrave Park
Saturday, March 3, 2012 – Newport Gwent Dragons 14 Munster 24, Rodney Parade
Saturday, September 22, 2012 – Munster 33 Newport Gwent Dragons 13, Thomond Park
Friday, April 19, 2013 – Newport Gwent Dragons 30 Munster 24, Rodney Parade


– Munster’s three-game winning run in the RaboDirect PRO12 came to an end last Friday in Treviso

– The Munstermen have won their last three encounters at Musgrave Park since the Cardiff Blues won there in January

– The Newport Gwent Dragons’ last six matches have all been won by the home side on the day, while the men of Gwent’s only PRO12 away victory since March 2012 was 14-13 at Zebre in February

– The Dragons have won their last two games against Irish provinces, but both games were played at Rodney Parade, you have to go back to September 2008 to find their most recent away victory over Irish opposition

– Each side won its respective home game when the two teams met last season, but the Dragons’ only previous win on Munster soil came on their very first visit to Thomond Park in March 2004