Preview: Munster v Dragons

Date published: May 15 2015

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Munster lie third going into the final round of PRO12 action but with a point separating the top four a home semi-final is their goal.

At home to the Dragons, Munster will be targeting five points, although that still wouldn't guarantee them a home play-off.

Having won a game fewer than the Ospreys and Glasgow, Munster need to pick up more points than their nearest challengers this weekend, but a home clash with the Dragons is probably the easiest of the final round clashes, on paper at least.

The importance of the home semi-final can't be overstated. So far in the PRO12, no team has ever won a last four game away from home, and with the final set to take place at Ravenhill, Munster could be playing in front of a near home crowd in both semi and final.

While they let a win slip through their fingers in Belfast last week, the draw with Ulster put them in a great position this weekend, and it's a strong side that will host the Dragons.

Anthony Foley has made five changes in all, with BJ Botha and John Ryan coming into the front-row, while Billy Holland starts at lock. That means Donnacha Ryan shifts to the back-row alongside Paddy Butler, who replaces Tommy O'Donnell, the victim of a torn hamstring last time out to end his season.

The only change in the backs sees Ronan O'Mahony come onto the wing, with Simon Zebo another injury-enforced absence.

For their part, the Dragons have only pride to play for, but they were impressive in victory over Edinburgh last week.

Lyn Jones has made two changes to that team, with Dorian Jones in at fly-half as Jason Tovey moves back to full-back. Up front Hugh Gustafson replaces the injured T Rhys Thomas at hooker.

Form: Even a bonus point victory for Munster in this encounter may not be enough to give them a home play-off, whilst the Munstermen's only defeat in the last nine rounds of Guinness PRO12 play came on a visit to Ospreys in round 17. Munster have won their last nine matches in Cork since Cardiff Blues beat them there in January 2013. Dragons have already ensured that they will finish in ninth place in this season's Guinness PRO12 and have lost just one of their last five matches in the competition. The Men from Gwent have won three of their four clashes with Irish provinces since the turn of the New Year. The Welshmen's only victory over Munster in their last eight encounters came at Rodney Parade in April 2013 whilst the only time they have been triumphant on Munster soil was on their very first meeting at Thomond Park in March 2004.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Denis Hurley (c), 11 Ronan O'Mahony, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Paddy Butler, 6 Donnacha Ryan, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Billy Holland, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Eusebio Guinazu, 1 John Ryan.
Replacements: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Sean Dougall, 20 Jack O'Donoghue, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Andrew Conway.

Dragons: 15 Jason Tovey, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Dorian Jones, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Nick Crosswell, 5 Rynard Landman (c), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Hugh Gustafson, 1 Boris Stankovich.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Buckley, 17 Phil Price, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Matthew Screech, 20 James Benjamin, 21 Richie Rees, 22 Ashton Hewitt, 23 Geraint Rhys Jones.

Date: Saturday, May 16
Kick-off: 15:00 BST, 14:00 GMT
Venue: Irish Independent Park, Cork
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (6th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Dudley Phillips, Sean Gallagher (both IRFU)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (IRFU)

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