Preview: Munster v Dragons

Date published: September 2 2011

Tomas O'Leary has been withdrawn from the Munster line-up ahead of their RaboDirect PRO12 season opener against the Dragons.

Tomas O'Leary has been withdrawn from the Munster 22 ahead of their RaboDirect PRO12 opener against the Dragons at Musgrave Park.

Duncan Williams takes his place as O'Leary continues to have lower back trouble and at this early stage of the season, management believe it would be unwise to rush him back into action.

It'll be their fourth game of the season but Tony McGahan agrees that expectations for this one will be different from the August matches.

“Everything you do in pre-season (games) from our perspective is building towards the first game and then get a result,” he said.

“We haven't been playing for points the last three weeks, this weekend we are. We've had a good start to our domestic campaigns over the last period of time. We're at home first up so you really need to be winning your home games and for us, that starts this weekend.”

Meanwhile, Dragons coach Darren Edwards has handed starts to new signings Tom Brown and Joe Bedford for Saturday's match in Cork. Other newcomers, Rhys Buckley and Nathan Williams are set to make their competitive debuts off the bench as Dragons look for just their second win over Munster away from home.

Form: Honours were even in the two encounters between the two sides last season, with each team winning its respective home encounter, whilst the Dragons' in this RaboDirect PRO12 game will be hoping to add to their only previous win on Munster soil: 16-6 at Thomond Park on 12 March 2004. Reigning champions Munster finished last season with ten successive victories, but have begun the season at home just three times before and been victorious each time. The Munstermen's most recent home defeat in the tournament came on 24 April 2010 to Ospreys at Thomond Park. Newport Gwent Dragons have won their opening fixture in four of the last six seasons, but lost two of their final three matches last season. The Dragons have lost their last four games against Irish provinces.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Johne Murphy, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Lifiemi Mafi, 11 Denis Hurley, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Niall Ronan, 6 Peter O'Mahony (capt), 5 Mick O'Driscoll, 4 Billy Holland, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Mike Shery, 1 Marcus Horan.
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Wian Du Preez, 18 John Hayes, 19 Dave Foley, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Scott Deasy, 23 Simon Zebo.

Dragons: 15 Steffan Jones, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Tom Riley, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Mike Poole, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Joe Bedford, 8 Tom Brown, 7 Gavin Thomas, 6 Andrew Coombs, 5 Robert Sidoli, 4 Adam Jones, 3 Ben Castle, 2 Tom Willis, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Buckley, 17 Nathan Williams, 18 Dan Way, 19 Jevon Groves, 20 Hugo Ellis, 21 Wayne Evans, 22 Pat Leach, 23 Martyn Thomas.

Date: Saturday, September 3
Venue: Musgrave Park
Kick-off: 19:45 (18:45 GMT)
Referee: Stefano Penne
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Brian MacNeice
TMO: Seamus Flannery