Although seven points clear at the top of the table, Munster need the points tonight in this game that could be viewed as arguably the easiest of their remaining fixtures as the Magners League heads for the concluding stages.
After tonight, there’s a two week break before they head for Cardiff, then there’s the home game with Leinster, two games that could determine their Magners destiny. So anything other than a win this evening would represent a set-back in their quest for a place in the knock-outs.
There will also be a whiff of revenge in the Musgrave Park air tonight following that 20-6 defeat in Rodney Parade and whether it’ll be significant or not, only four players – Doug Howlett, Paul Warwick, Ian Nagle and James Coughlan – remain in the starting XV from that night in November.
Howlett and Nagle retain the same positions, Warwick was out half that night but this time switches to centre alongside Lifeimi Mafi, a combination that worked so well against Edinburgh while James Coughlan will be at open side this evening whereas he was number 8 in Rodney Parade.
There’s the new combination at half-back of Garryowen pair Conor Murray and Declan Cusack, a return to the starting line-up for Marcus Horan and Denis Fogarty and Denis Leamy released from the international arena to anchor a scrum that has been particularly steady in the past few games.
Munster: J Murphy; D Howlett, L Mafi, P Warwick, S Zebo; D Cusack, C Murray; M Horan, D Fogarty, S Archer; I Nagle, M O’Driscoll capt; D Ryan, J Coughlan, D Leamy. Replacements: D Varley, W du Preez, T Buckley, A Quinlan, T O’Donnell, P Stringer, S Tuitupou, D Barnes.
Newport-Gwent Dragons: W Harries; A Hughes, T Riley, P Leach, M Pewtner; J Tovey, W Evans; H Gustafson, S Jones capt, B Castle; S Morgan, R Sidoli; A Coombs, T Faletau, J Bearman. Replacements: L Burns, P Palmer, P Price, A Jones, L Evans, A Smith, J Evans, M Jones.
Referee: Peter Allen (Sco).