Penney keeps a cool head

Munster coach Rob Penney has resisted the temptation to field his strongest side in response to last week’s second half meltdown at Treviso for this evening’s Rabo Direct clash with the Newport Gwent Dragons.

But a repeat of the indiscipline that saw four players yellow carded in Italy and the general malaise that afflicted the side in a shock defeat will have serious repercussions for the culprits ahead of selection for a series of mammoth fixtures over the next few weeks.

Penney has provided food for thought by picking Johne Murphy at full-back and JJ Hanrahan at out-half. With Felix Jones back on the bench after injury and Ian Keatley also among the replacements, the element of competition for two key positions in the back division is apparent.

The choice of James Cronin, Damien Varley and John Ryan in the front-row looks to be recognition of how well they have done this season rather than that they are ahead of David Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry and Stephen Archer in the pecking order.

Paul O’Connell will make a well timed appearance off the bench at some stage this evening for his first outing of the season, while the battle for places in the back-row intensifies each week. Shaun Dougall wears the number seven jersey but will probably need an exceptional performance to get the nod ahead of CJ Stander in the weeks ahead.

Meanwhile, things are certainly looking up for the Dragons. Lyn Jones pulled no punches once he was appointed Director of Rugby during the summer when he warned his players their reputation as “the fourth best team out of four in Wales” was no longer acceptable and demanded a totally different mindset. So far it appear as if they have taken his words to heart, especially a week ago when they defeated keen rivals Scarlets by 23-16 before an overjoyed Rodney Parade faithful. Lion Toby Faletau has been omitted from the Dragons 23 and there are few big names in the visitors line-up but this is a game Munster will treat casually at their peril.

MUNSTER: J Murphy; A Conway, K Earls, I Dineen, S Zebo; JJ Hanrahan, C Sheridan; J Cronin, D Varley, J Ryan, D O’Callaghan, D Foley, P O’Mahony (c), S Dougall, P Butler.

Replacements: M Sherry, D Kilcoyne, S Archer, P O’Connell, CJ Stander, D Williams, I Keatley, F Jones.

DRAGONS: D Evans; M Pewtner, R Wardle, J Dixon, T Prydie; K Burton, J Evans; P Price, H Gustafson, F Chaparro, A Coombs (c), M Screech, J Groves, L Evans, N Talei.

Replacements: S Perry, O Evans, D Way R Sidoli, I Jones, R Rees, J Tovey, A Hughes.

Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland).

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