Preview: Munster v Dragons

Date published: March 4 2011

Back row Toby Faletau returns to the Dragons team for Saturday's Magners League clash with Munster at Musgrave Park.

Back row Toby Faletau returns to the Dragons team for Saturday's Magners League clash with Munster at Musgrave Park.

Faletau had been selected with the Welsh Six Nations squad but withdrew with an ankle injury.

“It's obviously great to have Toby back in contention,” said Dragons Forwards Coach Danny Wilson.

“Toby's presence gives us a really physical back row, which you need playing a pack like Munster's.

“Lewis Evans has been outstanding at seven, but he has played a lot of rugby recently. He's had to play through a couple of bumps but now that Toby's back we are able to take the pressure of Lewis a bit.

“Some of the boys have been playing a lot of rugby over the last few weeks, partly because of injuries. We have a squad with a lot of competition which means we can ,mix things up a bit without the standard dropping.”

Steve Jones will lead the side with the absence of Luke Charteris (rested) whilst wing Matthew Pewtner gets his first start since September, rewarding his recent form in the Premiership.

“Matthew Pewtner's been playing really well for Newport and deserves this opportunity,” said Wilson.

“He's developed better game awareness and has carried well and been making breaks for Newport. He's had some stiff competition with Aled Brew playing really well this season so Matthew will have to take his chance on Saturday which I am confident he will do.”

With Munster's strong form up front, the improvement in the Dragon's pack work will certainly be important.

“The scrum has gone well recently, we're starting to develop some depth in props which is crucial to our game,” said Wilson “We've changed the way we train with scrummaging this season which the boys have been really receptive to the increase in live scrummaging this season.

“Although it's a bit taxing physically, it's worth it for the improvement in matchday performance.”

Meanwhile, there's a decidedly fresh look to the Munster selection, particularly so at scrum-half where 21-year-old Conor Murray makes his senior debut alongside Declan Cusack.

For his part, Cusack's only other start was against Connacht around this time last year. The half-back pair are joined in the starting XV by 21-year-old Ian Nagle in the second row and Simon Zebo who will be 21 later this month.

There's still loads of experience in the side including a return to the starting XV for Marcus Horan and Denis Fogarty while the bench looks particularly strong althioyugh still catering for youth in the shape of 21 year old Danny Barnes.

Form: Munster have won six of their last seven matches in the Magners League since November. The Munstermen have won their last dozen home matches since Ospreys visited Limerick in the Magners League on 24 April 2010, and won 15-11. Dragons are unbeaten in their last five encounters in all competitions. The Dragons' only defeat in the Magners League in 2011 was 15-21 at Scarlets on New Year's Day. The Men from Gwent have won their last two matches against Munster and are going for an unprecedented third
successive win against the Munstermen.

The teams:

Dragons: 15 Will Harries, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Tom Riley, 12 Pat Leach, 11 Matthew Pewtner, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Wayne Evans, 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Toby Faletau, 6 Andrew Coombs, 5 Rob Sidoli, 4 Scott Morgan, 3 Ben Castle, 2 Steve Jones (c), 1 Hugh Gustafson.
Replacements:16 Lloyd Burns, 17 Pat Palmer, 18 Phil Price, 19 Adam Jones, 20 Lewis Evans, 21 Ashley Smith, 22 Jon Evans, 23 Matthew Jones.

Munster: 15 Johne Murphy, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Lifeimi Mafi, 12 Paul Warwick, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Declan Cusack, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Denis Leamy, 7 James Coughlan, 6 Donnacha Ryan, 5 Mick O'Driscoll (c), 4 Ian Nagle, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Denis Fogarty, 1 Marcus Horan.
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 Tony Buckley, 19 Alan Quinlan, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Sam Tuitupou, 23 Danny Barnes

Date: Saturday, March 5
Kick-off: 19:30
Venue: Musgrave Park
Referee: Peter Allan (Scotland)
Assistant referees: David Keane (Ireland), Eanna O'Dowd (Ireland)
TMO: Brian Fitzgerald (Ireland)