Saturday 25 February 2017

Injured O'Leary ruled out of Dragons clash

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

TOMAS O'Leary yesterday withdrew from the Munster subs' bench for tonight's opening Pro12 game against the Dragons as a troublesome back continued to heap woe on the scrum-half.

It's been a rough few weeks for the Corkman, who was ditched from Ireland's World Cup squad and has not been able to exorcise his demons on the playing field.

Peter Stringer had been down to start and now Duncan Williams joins the replacements.

The visiting Dragons face a strong looking Munster team with plenty to prove. Johne Murphy, Marcus Horan, Mick O'Driscoll, Niall Ronan and Stringer had New Zealand claims, as did Damien Varley and John Hayes, who start on the bench.

The Dragons have five first-teamers on World Cup duty and the likes of Aled Brew and Luke Charteris will be missed tonight.

It's a great chance for Munster to kick off the season with a win and debutant Ian Keatley will be looking to impress before the return of Ronan O'Gara. The 14 points he needs to take him past 500 career league points would be a good start.

Munster's form in pre-season was shaky, but coach Tony McGahan is confident his troops can get off to a good start. "Everything you do in pre-season (games), from our perspective, is building towards the first game and then get a result," he said. "We've had a good start to our domestic campaigns over the while. We're at home first up, so you really need to be winning your home games and, for us, that starts this weekend."

Verdict: Home win

Munster -- J Murphy; D Howlett, D Barnes, L Mafi, D Hurley; I Keatley, P Stringer; M Horan, M Sherry, S Archer; B Holland, M O'Driscoll; P O'Mahony (capt), N Ronan, J Coughlan. Reps: D Varley, W Du Preez, J Hayes, D Foley, T O'Donnell, D Williams, S Deasy, S Zebo.

Dragons -- S Jones; A Hughes, T Riley, A Smith, Mike Poole; Jason Tovey, J Bedford; P Price, T Willis, B Castle; A Jones, R Sidoli; A Coombs, G Thomas, T Brown. Reps: R Buckley, N Williams, D Way, J Groves, H Ellis, W Evans, P Leach, M Thomas.

REF-- S Penne (FIR).

Munster v Dragons,

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Irish Independent

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