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Preview: Munster v Dragons

20th September 2012 13:37

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Peter Stringer Treviso

Munster return: Peter Stringer

Munster will certainly not lack for experience at half-back on Saturday with Peter Stringer and Ronan O'Gara paired together for the first time in 19 months.

It will be Stringer's first start for the Munster in nearly a year. Between them, O'Gara and Stringer have amassed almost 450 competitive Munster caps with Stringer set to win a phenomenal 226th cap on Saturday.

Injuries sustained in last week's game against Ulster have ruled James Coughlan and Luke O'Dea out while Denis Hurley and Ivan Dineen succumbed to illness this week forcing Rob Penney to ring the changes.

Ian Keatley comes in for Hurley at full-back - a position he occupied for the latter end of the game last weekend - while the loss of O'Dea, who was in a rich vein of form, is softened by the availability of international Simon Zebo.

Paddy Butler finds himself anchoring the scrum, while after six games on the bounce Casey Laulala and Sean Dougall are given a break. Keith Earls comes in for Laulala at 13 with Niall Ronan back from injury to replace Dougall.

Meanwhile, Dragons coach Darren Edwards has hands number eight Tom Brown his first start of the campaign, in the back row, in place of Toby Faletau who drops down to the bench.

It's also centre Ashley Smith's first appearance in the starting line-up for this season and his 99th start of his Dragons career. He comes in for Andy Tuilagi who joins Faletau amongst the replacements.

Form: Munster lost their 100 per cent winning start to the RaboDirect PRO12 with their narrow 19-20 defeat at Ulster on Friday. The Munstermen have won their last three home games, whilst the only Welsh side to win on Munster turf since April 2010 was Ospreys in October 2011. Dragons have slipped to successive defeats at the hands of Leinster and Cardiff Blues. Dragons' solitary victory in their last 13 fixtures against Irish opponents was 22-9 at home to Ulster in September 2011. The Men from Gwent have won just once in Ireland since 2004: 16-14 against Ulster at Ravenhill on 19 September 2008. Munster have won their last three encounters with the Dragons, whilst the Newport Gwent side have won just once in Munster - on their very first visit to Thomond Park on 12 March 2004.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Ian Keatley, 14 Doug Howlett (c), 13 Keith Earls, 12 James Downey, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Paddy Butler, 7 Niall Ronan, 6 Dave O'Callaghan, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Mike Sherry, 1 Marcus Horan.
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Dave Foley, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Danny Barnes, 23 JJ Hanrahan.

Dragons: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Will Harries, 13 Adam Hughes, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Tom Prydie, 10 Lewis Robling, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Tom Brown. 7 Jevon Groves, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Adam Jones, 4 Ian Nimmo, 3 Dan Way, 2 Steve Jones (c), 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Aaron Coundley, 18 Tim Ryan, 19 Toby Faletau, 20 Lewis Evans, 21 Liam Davies, 22 Andy Tuilagi, 23 Pat Leach.

Date: Saturday, September 22
Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Venue: Thomond Park, Limerick
Referee: tbc (Italy)
Assistant referees: Mark Patton (Ireland), David Connolly (Ireland)
Television match official: Jude Quinn (Ireland)

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