8:02am Saturday 28th September 2013
By Chris Kirwan
AFTER patiently waiting in the wings a raft of players have a point to prove to Newport Gwent Dragons director of rugby Lyn Jones when they take centre stage in Cork this evening.
Director of rugby Lyn Jones has made five changes to the XV that secured a thrilling win against the Scarlets at Rodney Parade last weekend.
Fly-half Kris Burton, scrum-half Jonathan Evans and hooker Hugh Gustafson are promoted from the bench for the first time this term while number eight Netani Talei and wing Matthew Pewtner are also given starting berths.
Wales Under-20s back row forward Ieuan Jones and hooker Sam Parry, who was called up to the Wales training squad in the summer, are named in a matchday squad for the first time this season.
It's not quite put up or shut up for the group from the fringes – after all, this is the toughest assignment of the campaign – but they do need to grasp their opportunity.
Jones, keen to make an early statement of intent, wanted to build settled combinations ahead of last week's derby with the Scarlets.
That winning formula may have been tinkered with but the boss wants to see his charges continue on their upward curve and take the game to Munster.
"We feel that we are making strides," he said. "Our focus is to improve as players and as a team and that is not necessarily measured by results.
"We are delighted with what we have achieved so far but recognise that there is a long road ahead of us.
"We are not being overambitious in the way that we are playing at the moment, we have been quite reserved but as time goes on we need to encourage more and more positivity (in attack)."
"The last thing you want to do is too prescribing, you have to give the players the framework and structure, from that they can make the decisions."
The Dragons will hope to be in touch as the game enters the closing stages and by then they should be up against Ireland talisman Paul O'Connell.
The imposing lock will come off the bench for his first action since breaking a bone in his arm in the Lions' first Test win against Australia in June.
Munster are not fully-loaded but include a mixture of gnarly forwards and livewire backs, most notably Lions tourist Simon Zebo who was man of the match in last season's fixture at Thomond Park.
The rapid wing scored one try and set up two in the Irish province's 33-13 win in Limerick. Munster are looking to get back on the horse after suffering a 29-19 loss at Treviso last weekend.
Munster: J Murphy, A Conway, K Earls, I Dineen, S Zebo, JJ Hanrahan, C Sheridan, J Cronin, D Varley, J Ryan, D O'Callaghan, D Foley, P O'Mahony (captain), S Dougall, P Butler. Replacements: M Sherry, D Kilcoyne, S Archer, P O'Connell, CJ Stander, D Williams, I Keatley, F Jones.
Dragons: D Evans, M Pewtner, R Wardle, J Dixon, T Prydie, K Burton, J Evans, P Price, H Gustafson, F Chaparro, A Coombs (captain), M Screech, J Groves, L Evans, N Talei. Replacements: S Parry, O Evans, D Way, R Sidoli, I Jones, R Rees, J Tovey, A Hughes.
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
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