10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
MUNSTER v AIRONI RUGBY, Musgrave Park, 7.30pm (live RTE 2)
Team News: Munster coach Tony McGahan has made four changes, one of them positional, for the province's Magners League opener against Aironi Rugby.
The changes to the team that beat Gloucester last time out are confined to the pack and in particular to the back five.
Mick O'Driscoll will partner Billy Holland in the second row which means a switch to blindside flank for Donnacha Ryan at the expense of Alan Quinlan, who has been named on the replacements bench.
Niall Ronan, a second half replacement last weekend for Tommy O'Donnell, is retained at openside for the Magners League opener.
Included amongst the replacements for the first time this season are Ireland internationals John Hayes and Marcus Horan.
Denis Leamy will captain Munster from number 8 as he has done for their two pre-season games.
Notably, Saturday's visit of tournament newcomers Aironi will mark Felix Jones' first competitive appearance for Munster since injurying his neck against Connacht last December.
Jones will line out at full-back, behind recent signings and league debutants Johne Murphy and Sam Tuitupou who form a new-look centre partnership.
Meanwhile, Aironi Rugby coach Franco Bernini has made four changes in personnel to the team that lost 38-5 to Northampton Saints last week.
For the Italian club's first ever Magners League match, Giulio Rubini and Giulio Toniolatti have replaced Daniel Demas and Giovanbattista Venditti on the wings, and prop Alberto De Marchi and flanker Jaco Erasmus will start in the pack.
Aironi's starting forwards boast plenty of experience, with Italian internationals Fabio Ongaro and Salvatore Perugini completing the front row, ex-Ulster lock Carlo Del Fava joining team captain Quintin Geldenhuys in the second row, and former Munster back rower Nick Williams anchoring the scrum.
French out-half Ludovic Mercier is fit to start, after recovering from the ankle injury he picked up in Northampton. Former France international, Julien Laharrague, will look to pose an attacking threat from full-back.
MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Doug Howlett, Johne Murphy, Sam Tuitupou, Ian Dowling; Paul Warwick, Peter Stringer; Wian du Preez, Damien Varley, Tony Buckley, Mick O'Driscoll, Billy Holland, Donnacha Ryan, Niall Ronan, Denis Leamy (capt).
Replacements: Denis Fogarty, Marcus Horan, John Hayes, Alan Quinlan, Peter O'Mahony, Duncan Williams, Scott Deasy, Danny Barnes.
AIRONI RUGBY: Julien Laharrague; Giulio Rubini, Roberto Quartaroli, Dylan Des Fountain, Giulio Toniolatti; Ludovic Mercier, Tito Tebaldi; Alberto De Marchi, Fabio Ongaro, Salvatore Perugini, Carlo Del Fava, Quintin Geldenhuys, Jaco Erasmus, Gareth Krause, Nick Williams.
Replacements: Andrea De Marchi, Roberto Santamaria, Luigi Milani, Marco Bortolami, Aldo Birchall, Michael Wilson, Alberto Benettin, Gabriel Pizarro.
Referee: Graham Knox (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Paul Haycock, David Connolly (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Brian Fitzgerald (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 1/25; Draw: 50/1; Aironi Rugby to win: 9/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Denis Leamy (Munster) - "We've had a good pre-season. But we had a similar one last year, and it didn't get us what we set out to achieve, so enough said.
"We did fine against Leicester (Tigers) and Gloucester but this one against Aironi is entirely different. It's the first competitive game and a huge step-up on what's gone before.
"We couldn't have had better preparation with those games but this one will be a step-up again. We'd have huge respect for them. They have an international front five and present a huge physical challenge along with (our former team-mate) Nick Williams at number 8.
"I'd have huge respect for Nick. Only had the pleasure of playing with him a few times because we both had our injuries.
"But, look he's weighing in at over 120kgs and a really good footballer to boot. He has it all, will be a huge influence. He'll have the inside line on us, but it's just another factor we've to deal with.
"(Captaining your province) is a huge honour - no disrespect to the pre-season matches, but doing it in this game is special. It's bigger now.
"It's fantastic. No, I don't feel any extra pressure. I'm part of a squad, I have a part to play and I know I have the support around me. So no, it's an honour simple as that."
Nick Williams (Aironi Rugby) - "Playing for Munster you feel to be part of an historic club and you also understand how just the name of Munster inspires apprehension in a lot of opponents.
"I say the one thing that could be on our side is the unpredictability we have, because Munster haven't seen us before. This is a positive thing that we have to look to.
"I think if we just disrupt the set pieces - I know we are capable of doing it, we've got to pick the right times. Stop their lineouts and their scrum from giving them the momentum and using their backs is our aim, and if we can compete in the ruck we'll go a long way.
"I think it was a big positive for the team to play against two Second Division teams in France and then against the two Parma sides.
"I didn't take anything away from them. But if you talk about the level of the competition, (the game against Northampton) was a good outing for the guys, testing themselves at the level they will play in the Magners League.
"We just need to build on it and recognise that if the boys get a feel for the level they will compete week in and week out at in the league, Aironi can surprise people."
Top Scorers - 2009/10 Magners League: Munster - Points: Ronan O'Gara 91; Tries: Jean de Villiers 5; Aironi Rugby - Points: N/A; Tries: N/A
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
- Munster finished last season with a run of four successive defeats in all competitions
- The Munstermen have won their last seven games at Musgrave Park since Glasgow Warriors won there, 21-18, in the Magners League on May 10, 2008
- Munster have won all nine previous encounters they have had with Italian teams in all competitions
- Aironi Rugby are a brand new team and duly become the 23rd different team to participate in the Magners League