With a top four finish and a place in next season’s Heineken Cup Heineken Cup in mind, Newport Gwent Dragons have targeted this evening’s clash with Munster (6.30) as a must-win game.
Their 22 year old full-back Martyn Thomas speaking to Chris Kirwan in the South Wales Argus said, “”We have targeted this game and need the victory if we are to move up the table and target the top four and keep the fans happy.”
And Thomas is expecting to have to deal with an aerial bombardment given the presence in the Munster side of Ronan O’Gara. “Munster did challenge us with the high ball in Cork and we are well aware of it. Hopefully we have put a few things in place that will sort that out and it is a part of the game that you have to enjoy as a full-back.
“Kicking has become more and more important so you are always preparing for a high ball and looking out for who is coming towards you.
But I am a firm believer in heads-up rugby and if I have the chance to run it back I will have a go.
“I am an attacking full-back and it is an asset that I like to use. I feel I have the ability to run the ball back and beat defenders.
Just eight points separate Ospreys in first from Dragons in seventh in what is turning out to be an ultra competitive League and whatever about ambitions for eventual honours, qualification for Europe next season is an added incentive for Dragons this evening.
Munster’s need is different but just as great. Their record on the road has not been good in this competition and if they are to be in the shake up to retain their title they need to correct that now.
Despite the absence of eight front-liners they still have a strong side that will benefit greatly from the presence of Ronan O’Gara to direct things from out-half. He’ll have loads of experience around him with the exuberance of youth provided by Billy Holland and from the bench if required, Ian Nagle, Duncan Williams, Scott Deasy and Ciaran O’Boyle.
O’Boyle will harbour mixed feeling about this tie. Last season, playing in only his second competitive game for Munster he sustained an injury – having scored a superb try – that has kept him on the sidelines of the senior squad until today.
Munster: P Warwick; D Howlett, L Mafi, J de Villiers, D Hurley; R O’Gara (capt), P Stringer; M Horan, D Fogarty, T Buckley; M O’Driscoll, B Holland; A Quinlan, T O’Donnell, J Coughlan. Replacements: D Varley, J Brugnaut, I Nagle, N Williams, D Williams, S Deasy, C OBoyle.
Dragons: M Thomas; W Harries, M Watkins, A Smith, A Brew, J Tovey, W Evans; H Gustafson, T Willis (capt), B Castle; A Jones, L Charteris; D Lydiate, G Thomas, L Evans. Replacements: S Jones, P Palmer, R Sidoli, H Macdonald, T Riley, J Arlidge, J Leadbeater.
Referee: Dudley Phillips (IRFU).