A new season means a clean slate – something both Dragons and Munster will welcome when they lock horns at Thomond Park in their opening game of the 2019/20 campaign.
Fly-half Sam Davies and winger Owen Jenkins will make their Guinness PRO14 debuts for Dragons, who won just five games last season as they finished a lowly sixth in Conference B.
The visitors will face a Munster team that did qualify for the Guinness PRO14 Final Series, only to lose their semi-final against the eventual champions and provincial rivals Leinster.
Billy Holland will captain the hosts in his 13th season as a senior player, while Nick McCarthy makes his competitive debut at scrum-half and four academy players are included in the squad.
Kick-off: Thomond Park, Limerick | 15:00 (UK), Saturday 28 September
How to watch: Live on eir Sport, Premier Sports, TG4 & DAZN
Players to watch out for: Sam Davies (Scarlets), Nick McCarthy (Munster)
Davies amassed 153 points in the Guinness PRO14 for Ospreys last season and Dean Ryan will hope the former Junior World Player of the Year can pull the strings at No.10.
On the opposite side, McCarthy will be looking to hit the ground running at Thomond Park as he attempts to make the most of his opportunity while Conor Murray is at the World Cup.
Key stat: Munster have not been beaten at home in any tournament since Leinster were victorious at Thomond Park in the Guinness PRO14 on St Stephen’s Day 2017.
Munster XV: Mike Haley; Darren Sweetnam, Rory Scannell, Tyler Bleyendaal, Shane Daly; JJ Hanrahan, Nick McCarthy; Jeremy Loughman, Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer; Fineen Wycherley, Billy Holland (C); Jack O’Donoghue, Tommy O’Donnell, Arno Botha
Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, James Cronin, Keynan Knox, Darren O’Shea, Chris Cloete, Alby Mathewson, Liam Coombes, Jack O’Sullivan
Dragons XV: Jordan Williams, Ashton Hewitt, Adam Warren, Jack Dixon, Owen Jenkins, Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams (c); Brok Harris, Richard Hibbard, Leon Brown, Joe Davies, Matthew Screech, Huw Taylor, Ollie Griffiths, Lewis Evans
Replacements: Ellis Shipp, Ryan Bevington, Lloyd Fairbrother, Max Williams, Taine Basham, Tavis Knoyle, Jacob Botica, Tyler Morgan
Munster underlined their Guinness PRO14 title credentials with an impressive bonus-point victory to sour Dean Ryan’s first game in charge of the Dragons.
The Welsh side did not lack for endeavour but were simply outclassed at Thomond Park, as the hosts crossed for five tries and conceded none for a satisfying opening-day win.
Arno Botha, Jack O’Donoghue and Shane Daly all dotted down in the first half, before further scores from Tyler Bleyendaal and Darren O’Shea ensured a comfortable win.
Munster’s impeccable record at Thomond Park is hardly a secret but the Dragons began fearlessly in Ryan’s first match as director of rugby.
New fly-half Sam Davies kicked the first points of the season with a penalty from in front of the posts but their lead was short-lived, as Munster gradually upped the tempo following a rusty start.
With a pack to rival any other in the Guinness PRO14, it was not long before the hosts turned to the forwards and it paid dividends when Botha crashed over from short-range.
JJ Hanrahan – in at fly-half, while rival No.10 Bleyendaal was shifted to inside centre – kicked a penalty to extend the gap, before Davies quickly reduced that to four points with his second.
But when Dragons hooker Richard Hibbard was sin-binned shortly before half time, the hosts turned the screw – with O’Donoghue sneakily dotting down from the bottom of a ruck.
For the visitors, it was a case of damage limitation while they were one man light but Daly had other ideas, chipping over the Dragons defence to plant the ball down in style.
That gave Munster a 13-point half-time lead but when full-back Mike Haley was sin-binned for a high tackle, the Dragons had a platform to attack from.
But attempting to pierce Munster’s red wall can be a fruitless task and the away side were frustratingly kept out, before shipping a fourth try of the afternoon as Bleyendaal rumbled over.
As the weather worsened, Munster focused on containing their lead before adding one last try through O’Shea.
There is no doubt these early weeks provide a platform for tomorrow’ stars to stick up their hand while their more established teammates compete in Japan. For Munster, step forward Shane Daly.
The 22-year-old is highly-rated by Munster coaches and he showed why with an inspired try shortly before half-time.
Against the 14-man Dragons, Munster moved the ball wide at pace in an effort to stretch the defence and cash in on their numerical advantage.
The visitors seemed to have Daly covered when he received the ball by the touchline but he cleverly chipped over Ashton Hewitt, sprinted past him and dotted down.
Munster were clinical when the Dragons went down to 14 men, but early in the second half they found the shoe on the other foot.
Mike Haley was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle and the Dragons set to work, inching towards the try line.
However, Munster gallantly held on and turned the ball over, before escaping from that ten-minute sticky patch without damage.
Cardiff City Stadium will play host to the 2020 Guinness PRO14 Final on June 20 as one of the most exciting days in the club rugby calendar comes to Wales!
General sale tickets are available from http://bit.ly/PRO14Cardiff2020 and prices start at just £13 for concessions and £26 for adults (subject to booking fees), that’s a 15% early bird discount. Family ticket (2 adults / 2 children) prices begin at £64 and fans are encouraged to buy early to get the best value tickets.