A winning start is a must for Munster with Leicester Tigers and Stade Francais their chief threats in Champions Cup Pool 4. Anthony Foley’s men host a Benetton Treviso side that ran in three tries against Connacht last weekend.
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS CUP – POOL 4: Saturday, November 14
MUNSTER v BENETTON TREVISO, Thomond Park, 5.15pm (live Sky Sports 5 HD/Newstalk/highlights TG4)
Team News: Munster head coach Anthony Foley has made five changes to his team for their European Champions Cup opening round clash with Benetton Treviso at Thomond Park.
CJ Stander will lead Munster for the first time at European level in Saturday’s game, while Mike Sherry and BJ Botha return to join Dave Kilcoyne in the front row. Sherry makes a welcome return to European action for the first time in over two years.
Mark Chisholm comes in to start alongside Donnacha Ryan in the second row for the first time. In doing so, the Australian will make his first Champions Cup appearance having previously lined out for Bayonne in the Challenge Cup.
Jack O’Donoghue, Munster’s reigning Academy Player of the Year, will win his first European cap from the start when he lines out at openside flanker in a youthful back row that also sees Dave O’Callaghan and Stander retained.
Conor Murray and Ian Keatley continue at half-back with Simon Zebo and Keith Earls – who completed his return-to-play protocols – reverting to the wings for this weekend’s Pool 4 encounter.
Denis Hurley comes in to join Champions Cup debutant Francis Saili in the centre, while the final change sees Andrew Conway return at full-back.
Following his arrival last week, Argentinian international Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino could make his first appearance for the province after being named among the replacements. In addition, Academy play-maker and Dolphin clubman Rory Scannell will win his first European cap if sprung from the bench.
Over 17,000 tickets have now been sold for the Munster v Treviso game. Tickets can be purchased online here from just €;60 for families (2 adults & 2 kids), €;20 for adults and €;10 for juniors & students.
Match tickets are available from the Munster Rugby Ticket Offices at Thomond Park and Irish Independent Park, or you can call 0818 719 300.
Tickets for Saturday’s clash can also be purchased as part of build-your-own match packs where you can save 10% on Champions Cup and PRO12 tickets. Click here to start building yours.
Meanwhile, Benetton Treviso are back in Ireland for the second successive week, looking to bounce back from their 33-19 loss to Connacht in Galway. Head coach Umberto Casellato has seven personnel changes.
With James Ambrosini and Edoardo Gori returning at half-back, Luke McLean reverts to full-back and New Zealander Jayden Hayward, the scorer of two tries against Connacht, moves to the centre where he partners Enrico Bacchin.
Up front, hooker Ornel Gega and Australian tighthead Rupert Harden start, South African Duncan Naude gets the nod in the second row and Francesco Minto resumes in the back row alongside captain Alessandro Zanni and South African-born number 8 Braam Steyn.
The Italians are enduring a poor run of results in the PRO12. They are still without a league win this season and already find themselves five points adrift at the bottom of the table.
They have never beaten an Irish province in Europe and will have to upset the odds and Munster’s near-perfect home record of 61 wins from 65 matches in the European Cup if they are to come away with anything from round 1.
MUNSTER: Andrew Conway; Keith Earls, Francis Saili, Denis Hurley, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry, BJ Botha, Donnacha Ryan, Mark Chisholm, Dave O’Callaghan, Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander (capt).
Replacements: Duncan Casey, James Cronin, John Ryan, Dave Foley, Robin Copeland, Tomas O’Leary, Rory Scannell, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.
BENETTON TREVISO: Luke McLean; Ludovico Nitoglia, Jayden Hayward, Enrico Bacchin, Tommaso Iannone; James Ambrosini, Edoardo Gori; Matteo Zanusso, Ornel Gega, Rupert Harden, Duncan Naude, Jean-François Montauriol, Francesco Minto, Alessandro Zanni (capt), Braam Steyn.
Replacements: Davide Giazzon, Matteo Muccignat, Filippo Filippetto, Dean Budd, Marco Barbini, Andrea de Marchi, Chris Smylie, Sam Christie.
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth, Paul Dix (both England)
Television Match Official: Rowan Kitt (England)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 1/80; Draw: 70/1; Benetton Treviso to win: 25/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Conor Murray (Munster) – “Six wins from the first seven games obviously, there’s a good, positive feel around the squad and that’s exactly what I needed to come back into and it’s been great back playing against Edinburgh last week, bar one hairy moment towards the end!
“But it was really enjoyable to be back with the squad and it really focuses the mind for the future and it’s a really good thing, you can’t dwell on the past too much.
“Obviously you’d have a few demons living with you for a while from the World Cup, but you park those and get into Munster mode and we’re heading into Europe now which is a very special competition for us so it’s exciting.
“Treviso are getting a lot of internationals back as well with the likes of Edoardo Gori and Luke McLean who we played against in the Italian game in the World Cup and they’re really good players.
“They were in really good form for the World Cup and especially Gori, he came on last week against Connacht and he looks like he’s continuing that form, so whatever about their form so far this season, Europe is a different kettle of fish. Everyone raises their game for it and we’ll have to be ready for them.”
Current Form – Munster – (GUINNESS PRO12): Won 18-13 at home to Benetton Treviso; Won 20-18 away to the Ospreys; Won 23-21 at home to Glasgow Warriors; Won 35-27 at home to Cardiff Blues; Lost 25-22 away to the Scarlets; Won 32-28 at home to Ulster; Won 16-14 away to Edinburgh
Benetton Treviso – (GUINNESS PRO12): Lost 18-13 away to Munster; Lost 27-24 at home to Edinburgh; Lost 48-7 away to Ulster; Lost 25-22 at home to the Ospreys; Lost 19-12 away to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Lost 27-3 at home to Leinster; Lost 33-19 away to Connacht
Previous European Meetings: 4
Saturday, January 16, 2010 – Pool 1 – Benetton Treviso 7 Munster 44, Stadio di Monigo
Saturday, October 17, 2009 – Pool 1 – Munster 41 Benetton Treviso 10, Thomond Park
Saturday, January 24, 2004 – Pool 5 – Benetton Treviso 20 Munster 31, Stadio di Monigo
Saturday, December 13, 2003 – Pool 5 – Munster 51 Benetton Treviso 0, Thomond Park
European Cup Records:
2014/15: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2013/14: Reached the semi-finals
2012/13: Reached the semi-finals
2011/12: Reached the quarter-finals
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2009/10: Reached the semi-finals
2008/09: Reached the semi-finals
2006/07: Reached the quarter-finals
2004/05: Reached the quarter-finals
2003/04: Reached the semi-finals
2002/03: Reached the semi-finals
2000/01: Reached the semi-finals
1998/99: Reached the quarter-finals
1997/98: Failed to qualify from Pool D
1996/97: Failed to qualify from Pool D
1995/96: Failed to qualify from Pool D
Benetton Treviso –
2014/15: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2013/14: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2012/13: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2011/12: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2009/10: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2008/09: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2006/07: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2005/06: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2004/05: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2003/04: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2001/02: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
1998/99: Failed to qualify from Pool D
1997/98: Failed to qualify from Pool E
1996/97: Failed to qualify from Pool A
1995/96: Failed to qualify from Pool A