Dragons no match for ruthless Reds with point to prove
NEWPORT in November won't make many travel wish lists, but Munster will have little trepidation visiting Rodney Parade this evening.
While they are a tougher nut to crack at home, the Dragons were well beaten by Leinster last weekend, who exposed their limitations en route to a bonus-point win at the RDS.
Some of the Welsh tackling betrayed a lack of interest last Friday -- particularly for Shane Horgan's second try -- and they are unlikely to be as soft on home turf.
The Welsh region will be disappointed, given the result came on the back of two wins on the trot -- the second away at the Ospreys.
Given their escape from international call-ups, this is when the traditional strugglers usually pick up points, their current position of second from bottom -- just above winless Aironi -- will concern coach Paul Turner.
Turner welcomes Aled Brew and Toby Faletau back from Wales duty, but Danny Lydiate -- the only Dragon on duty at the Millennium Stadium tomorrow -- misses out.
Despite international call-ups, Tony McGahan has been able to name a strong backline including captain Doug Howlett, but up front they are understrength, particularly in the front five.
Peter Borlase and Wian du Preez are left on the bench, affording Dave Ryan a rare start and John Hayes some game time. Damien Varley's international involvement means Mike Sherry starts, while Ian Nagle and Billy Holland continue in the second row.
Tomas O'Leary's return means Conor Murray is on the bench in Duncan Williams' absence, while Lifeimi Mafi returns as a replacement.
Having beaten Australia and seen off second-placed Scarlets, this mixture have served Munster well recently and will take some shifting when the internationals return.
They will know this may be their last chance to impress McGahan before the frontliners return after this weekend's Argentina clash, but the likes of Nagle and Holland have done their case no harm. The callow front five will have to front up to the Dragons, but having watched Leinster score at will when they went wide, the visitors will look to spread the ball.
With their ruthless league form this season, Munster should secure an eighth win from nine games.
MUNSTER -- J Murphy; D Howlett (capt), B Murphy, S Tuitupou, D Hurley; P Warwick, T O'Leary; D Ryan, M Sherry, J Hayes; B Holland, I Nagle; T O'Donnell, N Ronan, J Coughlan. Reps: S Henry, W du Preez, P Borlase, B Hayes, P O'Mahony, C Murray, S Deasy, L Mafi.
DRAGONS -- P Leach; A Hughes, T Riley, A Smith, A Brew; J Tovey, W Evans; P Price, T Willis, N Hall; L Charteris, R Sidoli; L Evans, G Thomas, T Faletau. Reps: L Burns, B Castle, H Gustafson, A Jones, H Ellis, T Cheeseman, J Evans, M Jones.
REF -- A Falzone (FIR).
Dragons v Munster,
Live, RTE2, 7.05