PRO12 Preview: Dragons vs. Munster

Felix Jones continues at fullback for Munster tomorrow. (c) Linda Molloy.

Saturday 3rd March, 18.30 (TG4)

Last Friday’s 16-13 win over the Blues consolidated Munster’s position in 3rd ahead of this weekend. Tony McGahan’s side are now just a point behind the Ospreys in the second home play-off spot, and also have a game in hand as well as a better points difference. The Dragons have recently improved their own PRO12 fortunes. Consecutive wins over Edinburgh and Aironi have lifted the Welsh region to 9th, with Treviso only 3 points ahead. So, both side have plenty to play for tomorrow night.

With Danny Barnes out injured, Munster give a debut to recent signing Save Tokula at outside centre. Simon Zebo misses this one after his involvement in the Ireland camp all week. The pacy Luke O’Dea comes in on the right wing. In the second-row, Clonmel man Dave Foley gets his 4th start for the province alongside Mick O’Driscoll, making his 200th appearance for Munster. Denis Fogarty and Stephen Archer start in the front-row.

The Dragons include Wales World Cup star Luke Charteris, the lock’s first appearance this season following recovery from a wrist injury. Elsewhere, Springbok-capped speed merchant Tonderai Chavhanga starts on the right wing and is sure to test Johne Murphy’s defence. Lewis Robling, normally a 12, starts at outhalf for the Welsh side. 17-year-old Jack Dixon (born in 1994!) is on the bench, hoping for his second appearance in a Dragons’ jersey.

Much like Connacht in recent times, the Dragons’ confidence will have been boosted by their last few performances. Having key men Charteris and Chavhanga back will only intensify that. Munster will have to work hard in this one. However, with Connacht (A), Leinster (H), Ulster (H) and the Scarlets (A) amongst their remaining fixtures, a win tomorrow looks essential if the Red Army are to secure a home play-off. Verdict: Munster by 3-6 points.

Dragons: 15 Will Harries , 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 Andy Tuilagi, 12 Ashley Smith (c), 11 Aled Brew, 10 Lewis Robling, 9 Wayne Evans, 8 Tom Brown, 7 Lewis Evans, 6 Jevon Groves, 5 Rob Sidoli, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Nathan Buck, 2 Steve Jones, 1 Nathan Williams.
Subs: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Phil Price, 18 Dan Way, 19 Hugo Ellis, 20 Darren Waters, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Jack Dixon, 23 Steffan Jones.

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Luke O’Dea, 13 Save Tokula, 12 Lifeimi Mafi, 11 Johne Murphy, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Tomas O’Leary, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 Dave O’Callaghan, 5 Mick O’Driscoll (capt), 4 Dave Foley, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Denis Fogarty, 1 Marcus Horan.
Subs: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 BJ Botha, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Paddy Butler, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Scott Deasy, 23 Denis Hurley.

Referee: Carlo Damasco (Italy).

——————–

Photo courtesy:  Linda Molloy.

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