Tighthead prop Stephen Archer, who has been ruled out of action since October because of a neck injury, will earn his 100th Munster cap when he comes off the bench while Simon Zebo has been made available by Ireland and starts on the left wing in place of Gerhard Van den Heever. There are three changes from the side that beat Treviso last week. In the pack, Niall Scannell and Tommy O’Donnell start at hooker and in the back-row in place of Mike Sherry and Robin Copeland.
The Dragons also have three alterations to the side which lost narrowly to Glasgow last week, most notably the return to the left wing of highly-rated 21-year-old Welsh international Hallam Amos. Head coach Lynn Davies is also enthused by the availability after injury of long serving number ten Jason Tovey who is partnered at half-back by Charlie Davies.
Sarel Pretorius, a scrum-half highly rated by Munster, will be expected to make an impact from the bench, a task also awaiting South African second-row Rynard Landman. The side is led by the abrasive former Wales hooker T Rhys Thomas and includes another international in centre Adam Warren. Their most notable absentee is the outstanding Welsh and Lions number 8 Toby Faletau although they still have a highly rated back row in Nick Crosswell, Nick Cudd and Lewis Evans.
Though Dragons have lost all eight away games so far, Munster coach Anthony Foley isn’t taking them for granted — defeat would be Munster’s third in a row at Thomond Park, something unheard of in the professional era.
“We just want a result”, he stressed. “Dragons have been competitive and beat us 22-6 over there so we know what it means to play against them. They have the ability to put you in positions that you find difficult to exit from as we found out in the second half at Rodney Parade.”
Captain Billy Holland knows that unless the pack measures up to the challenge, they will be in trouble once again. “The thing about these games at the moment is, if you lose, you’re fighting to get into Europe, if you win, you’re heading towards the play-offs”, points out skipper Billy Holland.
“It’s that tight and that’s why we’re only focused on Dragons. We got beaten up by them earlier in the year. They have the highest number of turnovers in the league. We must have our physicality and mindset right.
“For a game like this, you just have to empty yourself.”
A Conway; D Sweetnam, F Saili, R Scannell, S Zebo; I Keatley, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan, M Chisholm B Holland, capt, D O’Callaghan, T O’Donnell, J O’Donoghue. Replacements – M Sherry, J Cronin, S Archer, D Foley, R Copeland, C Sheridan, J Holland, D Johnston.
C Meyer; A Hewitt, A Hughes, A Warren, H Amos; J Tovey, C Davies; P Price, T Rhys Thomas capt, B Harris, C Hill, M Screech, N Crosswell, N Cudd, L Evans. Replacements – E Dee, S Knight, L Fairbrother, R Landman, E Jackson, S Pretorius, A O’Brien, R Wardle.
Marius Mitrea (Italy).
- Munster tight head prop Mario Sagario has been called up to the Uruguayan squad for the Americas Rugby Championship and will start against the USA in Montevideo today.