Munster take on the Newport Gwent Dragons on Friday night in Rodney Parade as the Guinness PRO12 returns after a three-week break.
WHILE much of the focus for rugby supporters this weekend will be on Ireland’s final Test match of the autumn series against Australia, Munster face a crucial away fixture in the Guinness PRO12 as the competition resumes after a three-week break.
Newport Gwent Dragons provide the opposition for Friday night’s clash at Rodney Parade (7.30pm) which will be refereed by Italian official Mateo Liperini.
While Munster currently lie in fourth place in the PRO12 table with five wins from seven games, the Dragons are in 10th place with just one win, at home to Treviso, from their seven fixtures.
the form guide
THE Dragons have lost their last three games in the PRO12 and have won just twice at Rodney Parade since February, both times against Treviso. Indeed the Dragons have won just once this season in the league and have lost their other six games to lie 11th in the table. Munster have lost just once away from home since March, the 15-16 loss at Glasgow in last season’s PRO12 Play-Off’s. Munster have lost just one of their last seven meetings with the Dragons and are currently on a five-game unbeaten run. They are fourth in the table
Munster are without the eight players involved with the Ireland team to take on Australia on Saturday as well as all their injured players. They do welcome back a number of players who played for Ireland against Georgia last weekend but the biggest talking point is possibly the selection of JJ Hanrahan at full-back.
There are a couple of new names included, with Argentinian hooker Eusebio Guiñazu set for his first start for the province, while new South African centre Pat Howard is in line to make his debut off the bench.
Elsewhere Dave O’Callaghan is in line to make his first appearance for the side since February, while his namesake Donncha captains the side.
Meanwhile the Dragons welcome back Hallam Amos who was released by Wales and comes straight into the starting lineup.
Including Amos, Dragons Director of Rugby Lyn Jones has made five changes to the team that beat the Ospreys last weekend in the LV= Cup.
Full-back Geraint Rhys Jones is joined in the back three by Tyler Morgan Amos. The centre pairing of Ross Wardle and Ashley Smith remains in place after impressing last weekend. Dorian Jones gets the nod at fly-half and is joined in the halfbacks by Richie Rees.
South African prop Brok Harris gets his first start in the Pro12 as he moves from tighthead to loosehead.
The starting teams are:
Dragons: Geraint Rhys Jones, Tyler Morgan, Ross Wardle, Ashley Smith, Hallam Amos, Dorian Jones, Richie Rees, Lewis Evans, Nic Cudd, James Thomas, Rynard Landman (c), Cory Hill, Dan Way, Elliot Dee, Brok Harris. Replacements: 16 T Rhys Thomas, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Matthew Screech, 20 Ollie Griffiths, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Ashton Hewitt.
Munster: JJ Hanrahan, Andrew Conway, Andrew Smith, Denis Hurley, Ronan O’Mahony, Ian Keatley, Cathal Sheridan, Robin Copeland, Sean Dougall, Paddy Butler, Billy Holland, Donncha O’Callaghan (c), Stephen Archer, Eusebio Guinazu, John Ryan. Replacements: Duncan Casey, Alan Cotter, BJ Botha, Dave O’Callaghan, CJ Stander, Duncan Williams, Pat Howard, Johne Murphy.
chance to shine
FRIDAY night’s game is crucial for a Munster side looking to cement the province’s top four claims.
It is a key fixture for several players looking to boost their prospects for selection in match day squads for marquee fixtures over the coming weeks, at home to Ulster in the PRO12 on Friday week and followed by the back-to-back European Champions Cup games against Clermont Auvergne in December.
A win would see Munster record victories in both of their PRO12 fixtures while up to a dozen Irish internationals were on international duty. No mean achievement.
Munster are favourites to win the game at a price of 2/5 with The Dragons at 15/8 and the draw at 20/1. On the Handicap betting Munster -5 are 10/11.
no tv coverage
Munster’s game with Dragons will not be televised live. @Munsterrugby will tweet updates during the game.