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G12 Game 8) Dragons V Munster Fri Nov21st. NOT ON TV 19.30KO


  • G12 Game 8) Dragons V Munster Fri Nov21st. NOT ON TV 19.30KO

    Away to The Dragons in Rodney Parade on Friday this week, after that its home again in Thomond Park and welcoming Ulster and hopefully a few of the Carton House lads will be available. For now though its about getting a good performance on the road in a vociferous and passionate ground.

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    Our form

    Three wins in a row going into his weekends game, most notably the win in Cardiff at the death last time out. We were patchy in that game and on the back foot for vast tracts of the second half, the scrum creaked against a wily and experienced Blues front row. However once momentum began to swing back in our favour from a frankly fantastic kick return from GVDH Munster started to show a bit of patience and clarity of plan to power Paddy Butler over the line for the winner. Munster sucked Cardiff narrow and then blazed it wide to finish off a very well worked and confidence boosting winner.

    Leinster have an away tie in Treviso this weekend and they’re 2 points behind us in the league table, Conn are 5 points behind us but they have Zebre at home this weekend, a win for us would keep those dogs at bay, in my opinion they have the easier ties.

    JJ kicked all that was asked of him in The Arms Park, Williams ran a good show from the back of the scrum and Smith tackled all that he could in the centres. We have some returnees in Duncan Casey, Sean Dougall, Johnny Holland and hopefully Dave O’Callaghan to bolster the pack, we also potentially have an early debut for our short term centre Pat Howard from South Africa. Stephen Archer and Andrew Conway have been training in Munster all week so we should have a half decent side line out, even without the internationals available to us. This will be a difficult game, especially without the subconscious element of Sky or one of the other broadcasters being at the backs of the players’ minds, nobody wants to look a loss in the mouth on the telly, having said that what happened in the last moments in Cardiff should be used when we are under the pump this weekend, that game left Axel plenty to work on with the team.

    Had hoped to see the framework of the first XV transferred to the non internationals in the Cardiff game, and whilst we started brightly, we lost our way a bit between minutes 40-70. However, we never let Cardiff completely dominate nor get out of sight on the scoreboard, and once a chance arose we pounced upon it. That was what I noticed the most from the game, played ok, hung on for as long as we could and then stole a win, team showed a bit of maturity and self belief in those moments.

    Their form

    Three loses on the bounce in the league, have won 2 in Rodney Parade since February. Their only win so far this season in the P12 was at home to Treviso in rd 4. The have quite a few injury concerns, namely to some of their more known players like Lee Byrne and old warhorse Ian Gough both of whom are unavailable until the new year after shoulder surgery. They won well in the LV Cup last weekend beating the Ospreys 51-35, utilising their maul to good effect for two tries. Having watched the highlights of their league games what stood out most was their poor defending in general, they’ve shipped 17 tries in 7 games so far this season. Their centres went missing in lots of the clips, but once teams got in behind the organised D line it was usually resulting in a try, their scramble defence was not strong at all so far this season. Visser and Olding absolutely rinsed them.

    They still have a few dangerous players to call upon, former internationals like Andy Powell, Richie Rees and Thomas Rhys Thomas, all lads who have given Munster headaches in the past for various clubs. Hal Amos on the wing looks very very skilful indeed, has scored 2 of their 8 tries so far this season. Their kicker, Angus O’Brien is 4th on the golden boot table with 82%, they also have Jason Tovey for 10.

    Things to watch out for (or read about)

    The youtube highlights on Sunday night! Hopefully Dave O’Callaghan back playing competitive rugby and Duncan Williams running the show in a gameplan that suits his strengths. Other than that there aint much to look out for in a game nobody here in Ireland will see too much of. As a barometer, we beat them twice last season, first in Sept in Muzzer 23-9 with tries from Cronin and POM and then away two months later in November 2013 with Keatley kicking 6 penalties to win 14-18 on Gerhard VanDenHeevers debut.

    The referee for this is Matteo Liperini from Italy, this will be his 9th G12 game

    Quotable and Notable Post

    Compliments of Blackwarrior
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    JJ terrifying the ball over the crossbar

    Team announced:
    15. Hanrahan 14. Conway 13. Smith 12. Hurley 11. O'Mahony 10. Keatley 9. Sheridan 8. Copeland 7. Dougall 6. Butler 5. Holland 4. Donn. O'Callaghan 3. Archer 2. Guinazu 1. J. Ryan

    Replacements: D Casey, A Cotter, BJ Botha, Dave O’Callaghan, CJ Stander, D Williams, Pat Howard, J Murphy.

    Post-selection announcement points of interest from mr chips, added at Cowboy's request

    JJ at 15.
    Confirmation if any were needed that Hurley's default position is now 12, Axel obviously wants JJ on the field from the beginning rather than having Johne start in one of his preferred positions. Hopefully a sign that there'll be some clever counter-attacking and decent length on clearance kicks, any time we've had Keatley and JJ on the field at the same time we have looked incredibly dangerous, albeit with one of them at 10 and the other at 12. How do people expect his defence to go?

    Guinazu starting ahead of Casey
    Eusabio is a physical monster who on admittedly limited viewings has looked more than competent at lineout. If there's one area where Casey might have room for improvement, it might be how effective he is in the scrum - not in terms of hooking the ball, but in terms of binding his props and withstanding/driving against powerful opposition. Guinazo reminds me of the Minotaur and his power should help to make up for the non-availability of Cronin and Kilcoyne.
    Nevertheless, I genuinely thought Casey would have featured in Team Green at some stage and his complete absence from the national squad, together with his selection on the bench today against what has been one of the weaker teams in the league, again made me wonder if I'd missed an injury announcement - a search of the MR website threw up the following from a squad update from 14th October: "Duncan Casey (ribs) returned to limited training". So that explains that then!

    Sheridan ahead of Williams
    The other Duncan's recent appearances have been encouraging, with an average fan rating of 5.4 over six appearances being dragged down by the 2.4 average score he got for the disastrous season opener against Edinburgh, when nobody covered themselves in glory. However, his average ratings for each subsequent appearance have been 6, 6, 6.3, 5.9, 6.8 - that last one for his very positive performance in helping us grab the away victory in Cardiff, and it looks like he is becoming a more reliable backup to Murray. Meanwhile Sheridan has slipped far away from the nippy, decisive form he'd been showing before his knee injury last season - since returning to play, Cathal has not been having a good time, frequently plagued by inaccuracy and indecision. Hopefully this start will provide him with the boost his confidence has clearly been needing and help him lay down a marker that will challenge Williams once again.

    Copeland ahead of Stander
    This is an interesting one, with Robocope in a good place after getting the honour that was never afforded to James Coughlan with his first full Irish cap last weekend. That's not a dig at Copeland, by the way! He has shown himself to be a hard-running, difficult-to-stop ball carrier, with an advantage over Stander in that Robin is less prone to being stripped of the ball in the tackle. While Stander has played a huge amount for Munster so far this season, the break for the AI series means he's had more time off than Copeland recently, so there is the possibility that this may have figured in the selection decision. More likely though IMO is that Stander is there to be an impact sub - imagine seeing that lad take the field with the bit between his teeth for the final quarter ...

    The return of Beta
    Hurray! The "career-break" decision by Ian Nagle means Dave O'Callaghan becomes the next most likely candidate for will-he-or-won't-he-make-it speculation. Another player frustrated by long-term injury, DOC2 seems to have all the physical attributes to become a serious contender either on the flank or in the second row. Being 6'5" hasn't hurt the career of Big Bad Brad Thorn any, and at over 17 stone young David is no featherweight. Realistically, at this stage his biggest rival for a red jersey is Billy Holland and if the recent description of him on here as being aggressive enough to "tackle with his face" is true, hopefully he'll be able to lay down a marker this Friday in his first senior game since February.

    No GVDH at all at all
    Gerhard picked up a foot sprain against Cardiff and is only making a limited return to contact training this week, so Ronan O'Mahony gets another opportunity to move himself up the pecking order and give Axel another selection headache.

    ... and hello Pat Howard.
    Hello! Straight into action just twelve days after playing for an hour in Western Province's challenge game against ... Saracens, where the result was a 46-22 victory for our pool opponents. Hopefully this will give him the thirst for revenge, should the opportunity arise.

    I really, really wish I could watch this game!
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