MUNSTER v DRAGONS (Tonight, KO 8pm)

NEWPORT Gwent Dragons number eight Tom Brown heads into tonight’s clash with Munster declaring: “I’m no understudy”.

The 29-year-old will make his first start of the season in the RaboDirect Pro12 encounter at Thomond Park.

The first month of the season has been a frustrating one for Brown, who has had to watch Toby Faletau in the number 8 jersey.

It would be understandable if he was resigned to his fate as an impact sub given that Faletau is aiming to cement his spot at the heart of the Wales back row and push for a spot in the Lions tour.

But Brown doesn’t intend playing second fiddle.

“My aim is to be in the same shop window as Toby,” he said. “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 want to be able to do the same role in bigger and better games as well. I’m not here to accept what I am given; I want to make sure I play as often as I can.

“I won’t sit back and be shy; I train hard and I play hard.

“I have my own ambitions and won’t cower away in training, I get out there and show my enthusiasm.

“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.

“There will be a lot of pressure having Toby waiting on the bench but that’s good, having him on the side will inspire me to keep playing well and to keep carrying hard.

“And I’m sure it will be a kick for Toby, just like it’s been for me being on the bench the last few weeks.”

The Dragons have opted for Brown, who limped off with a severe dead leg on his regional debut in Cork last year, because of his strong, direct ball carrying.

And he knows that he must play a huge role alongside Dan Lydiate and Jevon Groves in the back row against an abrasive Munster pack.

“I’ve just got to stick to how I play my rugby,” said Brown. “I’ve got to be confrontational and carry hard.

“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.”

It will ensure Brown will be nursing plenty of bumps and bruises on Sunday morning, but after being limited to action on the training paddock he wouldn’t have it any other way.