6:01am Saturday 28th September 2013
THIS EVENING will be a barometer of Newport Gwent Dragons' progress as they attempt to cure their Irish travel sickness in Cork.
The region will be looking to build on terrific Rodney Parade wins against Ulster and Scarlets when they take on Munster at Musgrave Park (kick-off 6.45pm).
The Dragons endured a miserable 2012/13 in the RaboDirect, finishing with just winless Zebre beneath them, but there is a buoyant mood in the camp under new director of rugby Lyn Jones.
That has been matched off the field with supporters hopeful of brighter times after seeing spirited, gutsy displays by their team.
However, this evening is their toughest assignment of the season and they have headed over the Irish Sea with a woeful record against the four provinces.
They have not won in Ireland since turning over Ulster at Ravenhill in September 2008 while the last four seasons have yielded just four points from a possible 80.
The Dragons have never won in Cork and their solitary victory on Munster soil came at Thomond Park, Limerick in the first season of regional rugby.
It's not just an Irish problem – in 2012/13 they only managed to beat Zebre on their travels in the league and recorded just two losing bonus points.
Victory would be the stuff of dreams for a side that were Pro12 whipping boys just months ago, as reflected by the bookies offering odds of 7/1 on an away win.
But another doughty effort, like they produced when beaten with the last kick in Edinburgh a fortnight ago, would be another step in the right direction for Jones' boys.
"We are developing week on week," said Dragons captain Andrew Coombs. "We are a young, inexperienced side but the Ulster and Scarlets wins have given us so much confidence.
"Lyn, Kingsley (Jones, forwards coach) and Darren (Edwards, head coach) are giving us so much belief and we seem to be improving after every training session.
"We are getting better as players and better as a team and the hard work that we are putting in is showing when we take to the field.
"Munster are a tough side but we go into this game full of confidence and anything can happen."
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group