Having come up just short last weekend in a game viewed by many as the best of the season, Munster will be expected to return to winning ways tonight in Thomand Park Stadium against Newport Gwent Dragons (8pm) in this RaboDirect PRO12 round four game.
Yes there are changes aplenty to Rob Penney's starting XV but when the new introductions include the likes of Marcus Horan, Ronan O'Gara and Peter Stringer, winning their 216th, 224th, and 226th Munster caps respectively and then internationals such as Niall Ronan, Keith Earls and Simon Zebo, the space for excuse becomes a little vacuous.
Management of player welfare while confining Casey Laulala and Sean Dougall to a watching brief allows for the seamless re-introduction of Earls and Ronan while injury to Luke O'Dea and James Coughlan sees Zebo return to the Munster fold and Paddy Butler step up from the A arena that he graced so effectively in Belfast last weekend.
Alongside 21 year old Butler is 22 year Dave O'Callaghan, named yesterday in Declan Kidney's international training squad after a string of impressive performances and Penney continues the youthful theme on a bench that includes Danny Barnes (22) and for the first time JJ Hanrahan who has just celebrated his 20th birthday.
Dragons arrive on foot of just one win, at home to Zebre on the opening day at Rodney Parade, and with a number of changes from the side beaten last time out by the Blues.
Most noticeable perhaps is the change at centre where Pat Leach and Andy Tuilagi give way to Adam Hughes and Ashley Smith and at number 8 where Tom Brown is preferred to international and Lions contender Toby Faletau.
Brown is determined to make the most of his opportunity. “My aim is to be in the same shop window as Toby,” he tells Chris Kirwan (South Wales Argus) “My first step to doing that is to take the opportunities that come my way, whether it’s when he is here or when he’s away with Wales.
“I know exactly how many minutes I’ve had so far – 26! But I’ve been trying to make the most of the little time that I’ve had on the field and I can’t wait to get my chance to show what I can do from the start.”
And no better place nor opponents for Brown to showcase his talents. ” We need to fight for any inches we can get. Our backs have been electric at times this season so we need to keep punching those holes to get them quick ball.
“We know that Munster will always try to bully a side – they want to beat up the forwards then beat the backs out wide.
“But we like to be confrontational and carry hard ourselves, so we have to match them physically and beat them in the contact area.”
Munster: I Keatley; D Howlett (capt), K Earls, J Downey, S Zebo; R O’Gara, P Stringer; M Horan, M Sherry, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, B Holland; Dave O’Callaghan, N Ronan, P Butler. Replacements : D Varley, W du Preez, S Archer, D Foley, T O’Donnell, C Murray, D Barnes, JJ Hanrahan.
Newport Gwent Dragons: D Evans; W Harries, A Hughes, A Smith, T Prydie; L Robling, J Evans; P Price, S Jones (capt), D Way; I Nimmo, A Jones; D Lydiate, J Groves, T Brown. Replacements : S Parry, A Coundley, T Ryan, T Faletau, L Evans, L Davies, A Tuilagi, P Leach.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR).