MUNSTER v DRAGONS (Tonight, KO 8pm)
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons head coach Darren Edwards hopes that the selection of Lewis Robling at fly-half can help them exploit the wide expanses of Munster’s Thomond Park.
The Dragons have changed their backs for the first time this season with opportunities handed out at 10,12 and 13.
Robling comes in for Steffan Jones at fly-half while Ashley Smith and Adam Hughes are paired together in midfield with Andy Tuilagi and Pat Leach dropping to the bench.
The changes are not a reaction to last week’s woeful 16-5 loss to Cardiff Blues at Rodney Parade, it’s merely a case of horses for courses.
“Thomond Park is around 70 metres and our pitch is 60,” said Edwards. “That means that Adam’s outside break could be quite threatening and I think that Munster’s defence will have their hands full with his pace.
“They play a drift defence so we are hoping to get in the outside channels – we’ve scored seven tries in the two games against drift defences (Zebre and Leinster) so hopefully that run can continue.
“Lewis is our best distributer, that and his defensive game will be key against Munster.
“Steffan grabbed his chance when it came his way so kept the start for the first couple of games but I have two young 10s in the squad and they both need to play.
“What I haven’t been doing is having a specialist 10 on the bench – (full-back) Dan Evans has been covering there.
“That has meant that unfortunately Lewis hasn’t been getting rugby but this is his big chance.”
Two changes are made up front with Jevon Groves and Tom Brown coming in at the expense of captain Lewis Evans and Toby Faletau. Hooker Steve Jones will lead the side out.
The Dragons have not won in Ireland since the success against Ulster in Belfast in September 2008.
They have not fared well on their travels to Munster with a solitary success in 2004, the first season of regional rugby, when Andy Marinos’ try and 11 points from Percy Montgomery helped them to a 16-6 success.
However, Edwards expects his charges to seek inspiration from the way they played against Leinster in Dublin a fortnight ago.
A second half fightback should have yielded a pair of bonus points but it was ultimately a fruitless trip to the Irish capital after a late interception try by the European champions sealed a 45-25 loss.
“It was a big learning curve,” he said. “You saw the boys’ faces at half-time they were in shock.
“They were thinking ‘what’s going on here’ and then you saw them at full-time going ‘why didn’t we just do that from the start’.
“It’s getting them to believe they can do it.”
HOW THEY LINE UP
Munster: I Keatley, D Howlett (captain), 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.
Dragons: D Evans, W Harries, A Hughes, A Smith, T Prydie, L Robling, J Evans, P Price, S Jones (captain), 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 (Italy)