Defeat is painful and Munster have been hurting all week as they prepare to right the wrongs of last weekend’s home stumble to Cardiff Blues in their Guinness Pro12 trip to Newport Gwent Dragons today (5:15pm).
The simmering anger from the 24-23 reverse in Cork produced spikily intense training sessions this week.
Add that to director of rugby Rassie Erasmus’s ability to call on returning internationals Conor Murray and Keith Earls and give first starts to fellow Irish summer tourists Donnacha Ryan and CJ Stander and it indicates that mission should be accomplished at Rodney Parade.
Dragons have already felt the ire of their supporters when they failed to collect a bonus point in the win over Zebre last weekend. Yet a calamitous defeat for Munster at the Dragons last season means no-one in Erasmus’s squad will be treating the challenge lightly.
Certainly not tighthead prop John Ryan, part of the side beaten 22-6 in Newport last December in the second of five successive defeats that blew a hole below the line in Anthony Foley’s season.
“They got the push on a few scrums last year so we’re very wary of that as well as the maul,” Ryan said.
“They came out flying in the first 10 minutes and I think I gave away that penalty in the first minute of the game, which put them straight up and they led from the start. So we need to be a little more smart with our play this year and just work hard up front especially because that’s where they’ll get their momentum from, in the pack.”
Ryan will have some heft behind him when Munster return to Newport. Donnacha Ryan is joined in the second row by 6ft 8ins former Stormer Jean Kleyn with captain Billy Holland moving from lock to blindside flanker in a new back row which sees Jack O’Donoghue switch from No.8 to openside in the absence of Tommy O’Donnell with Stander in at the base of the scrum.
A rejigged backline sees Murray in at scrum-half and a fit-again Tyler Bleyendaal replacing Ian Keatley at fly-half. Rory Scannell’s neck injury suffered last week against Cardiff means he vacates the 12 jersey with Dan Goggin moving inside from 13 and Earls coming in for his first seasonal debut at outside centre.
There is a potential debut for Colm O’Shea, the former Leinster centre named among the replacements and the visitors may need plenty of options to deal with a Dragons backline that possesses plenty of spark, according to Munster full-back Andrew Conway.
“Dragons cause problems to most team in competitions. They might lose a few away games when they don’t turn up or they might be missing a few internationals and that costs them. They’ve got Hallam Amos, Tyler Morgan who is now 13 for Wales, who is a really good player. When they lose that core group they struggle a small bit. When they’ve got them around they really target the games the lads are playing in. Playing them at the start of the year is a good opportunity to play against a really good team.”
C Meyer; P Howard, T Morgan, J Dixon, H Amos; N Macleod, S Pretorius; S Hobbs, R Buckley, B Harris; N Crosswell, R Landman; L Evans - captain, O Griffiths, E Jackson.
D Harris, T Davies, C Mitchell, C Hill, J Thomas, C Davies, A O’Brien, A Warren.
A Conway; D Sweetnam, K Earls, D Goggin, R O’Mahony; T Bleyendaal, C Murray; J Cronin, N Scannell, J Ryan; J Kleyn, D Ryan; B Holland – captain, J O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.
D Casey, D Kilcoyne, B Scott, D O’Callaghan, C Oliver, D Williams, I Keatley, C O’Shea.
Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
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