Guinness PRO12 leaders Munster are looking for an eighth-straight Guinness PRO12 win as they host Newport Gwent Dragons who are without a win in any of their last 18 league away games.
What’s at stake?
Munster have lost two of their last four fixtures in Cork, both to Welsh opposition, but will be looking to continue their fine form after their win over Edinburgh last time out and cement their place at the top of the pile.
After kicking off 2017 with an important victory over Benetton Treviso, the Dragons will be hoping they can defy their away form and climb up the table with a win against an intimidating Munster side under the lights.
Team news (Munster)
Munster have made five changes from the side that beat Edinburgh, as four players have been made available from Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations squad for the game at Irish Independent Park.
Dave Kilcoyne comes into the front row alongside Rhys Marshall and Tommy O’Donnell returns to the back row at openside.
Duncan Williams and captain Tyler Bleyendaal again form the half-back partnership and, in a fully changed midfield, Jaco Taute reverts from fullback to resume his partnership alongside Rory Scannell.
Local man Darren Sweetnam also makes a welcome return at full-back alongside Andrew Conway.
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) February 9, 2017
Team news (Newport Gwent Dragons)
Newport Gwent Dragons have a number of first-team regulars returning this week after they sat out the Anglo-Welsh Cup defeat to Gloucester last weekend.
Skipper Lewis Evans returns after signing a new contract last week and Pat Howard returns to the back three to join fellow wing Adam Hughes and fullback Carl Meyer.
In the front row, Sam Hobbs retains his position as loosehead prop with hooker Rhys Buckley and tighthead prop Brok Harris joining him.
Fly-half Dorian Jones retains his place and Matthew Screech has been rewarded with another start after his double-try last weekend.
— NewportGwentDragons (@dragonsrugby) February 9, 2017
The Dragons away form is a real concern but they will take heart from Munster’s recent form against Welsh sides in Cork and their forwards coach, Ceri Jones, knows they can provide a real test for Munster.
“It’s a very, very difficult place to go. It will be a huge challenge and we just need to go there and put in an 80-minute performance on the field,” he said.
“We know we can do that and we can be competitive with any team in the league, but it’s down to us to stop making those stupid errors.
“We know the threats that they are going to impose on the rugby field and we have prepared really well for them. We know what is coming, so if we deal with that and then put our game onto the pitch, I am sure that we will give a good account of ourselves.”
Key battle: The two breakdown specialists Ollie Griffiths and Tommy O’Donnell will play a big role in deciding the outcome at Irish Independent Park.
Griffiths’ 13 turnovers is the second highest in the PRO12 and if O’Donnell cannot stunt his ability to regain possession for his side it could prove pivotal for the Dragons.
Key stat: The Welshmen have lost their last 18 away games in the PRO12 since beating Benetton Treviso at Stadio Monigo in March 2015.
Did you know?
Dragons only previous victory on Munster soil came on their first ever visit to Thomond Park in March 2004.
Top points scorer: 71– Tyler Bleyendaal
Top try scorer: 6 – Ronan O’Mahony
Newport Gwent Dragons:
Top points scorer: 77 – Angus O’Brien
Top try scorer: 4 – Pat Howard
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 27, Munster won 19, Dragons won 8.
At Irish Independent Park, 7.35pm Live on TG4/BBC WALES
Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU, 3rd competition game)
Assistant Referees: Keith Allen (SRU). Stuart Douglas (IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Eddie Wigglesworth (IRFU)
TMO: Neil Paterson (SRU)
Munster demonstrated why they are top of the Guinness PRO12 table with a 45-17 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons at Irish Independent Park.
Jaco Taute scored two tries with Andrew Conway and a penalty try giving the home side the try bonus point on the stroke of half time.
Rhys Buckley and Elliot Dee touched down in reply for the Dragons but Dave Kilcoyne and Ronan O’Mahony added try numbers five and six.
Munster, who had fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal kick 15 points, maintained their one-point advantage over Ospreys, who secured a try bonus point over Zebre, at the top of the league.
Tyler Bleyendaal and Dorian Jones exchanged penalties in the opening ten minutes before Taute found a whole in the Dragons defence.
He touched down with 13 minutes gone after good work in the build up from Rhys Marshall with Bleyendaal adding the extra to put the league leaders 10-3 up.
And Munster had their second try soon after when Bleyendaal intercepted a Dragons pass and chipped the ball ahead for full-back Conway to collect and touchdown.
Bleyendaal added the extras and Munster were 17-3 ahead with 20 minutes played.
Taute crashed over from close range for his second, and Munster’s third try, just before the half hour with Bleyendaal once again on target with his boot.
The Dragons fought back and had their first try of the evening through Buckley as he forced his way over at the tail of a driving lineout with Jones slotting the extras.
But the visitors were reduced to 14 men when the TMO adjudged full-back Carl Meyer’s knock on to have been deliberate and a penalty try was awarded to Munster.
Bleyendaal added the extras once more to give Munster a 31-10 half-time lead with the bonus point already secured.
Darren O’Shea was shown a yellow card five minutes into the second half and the Dragons made it as they drove a scrum over the try line with replacement Dee touching down.
Jones converted to make it 31-17 but Kilcoyne crashed over for the hosts’ fifth try of the evening with 63 minutes gone which Bleyendaal converted to make it 38-17.
O’Mahony added further gloss to the Munster performance by getting the sixth try in the final play of the game with Bleyendaal keeping his 100 per cent record from the tee.
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017, 27th May, Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Ticket Information: Fans can still avail of an exclusive number of €30 tickets. Book via www.ticketmaster.ie. Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final
09 Feb 2017