Munster will tighten their grip on second place in the RaboDirect PRO12 if they can overcome the challenge posed by bottom side Aironi in Sunday’s rescheduled game. Currently, they are two points clear of the Ospreys in third.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Sunday, March 11
AIRONI RUGBY (12th) v MUNSTER (2nd), Stadio Zaffanella, 3pm local time/2pm Irish time
Team News: The fit-again David Wallace will make his return to action with Munster on Sunday, having been named amongst the replacements for the rescheduled RaboDirect PRO12 match against Aironi in Viadana.
Wallace is poised to make his seasonal debut for Munster, after a long road to recovery from the knee injury which ruled him out of Ireland’s Rugby World Cup plans back in August.
In a further boost, hooker Mike Sherry will make his first start since September having recovered from an ankle injury he sustained when playing for Garryowen in a club game.
Also included in the province’s starting line-up is in-form winger Simon Zebo who missed their most recent game in Newport due to international commitments.
Tomas O’Leary’s call-up to the Ireland matchday squad for the Scotland match means there is a place on the Munster bench for Academy player Cathal Sheridan.
Meanwhile, Aironi boss Rowland Phillips has to contend with several injuries (Nick Williams, Ruggero Trevisan, Paolo Buso, Antonio Denti, Kaine Robertson and Frans Viljoen) and the continued absence of Italian internationals – ten in all – who are on Six Nations duty.
Added to that is the unavailability of suspended duo Mauro Bergamasco and Gilberto Pavan, so there are five changes in all to the side that started against Leinster last weekend.
Regular half-back Tito Tebaldi has been moved to full-back, while Matteo Pratichetti is back into action at outside centre alongside Gabriel Pizarro. Riccardo Pavan and Sinoti Sinoti retain their place on the wings.
There is a new half-back pairing of fit-again Italian international Luciano Orquera, who will make his first start in a couple of months, and Tyson Keats.
The only new face in the pack is Filippo Ferrarini who replaces Simone Favaro at blindside flanker in a back row line completed by number 8 Josh Sole and openside Nicola Cattina.
Hooker Roberto Santamaria skippers the team for the tenth time, while former Ulster lock Carlo del Fava is fit to start in the second row after recovering from a slight knock.
Two permit players from the Italian Championship are amongst the replacements – second row Filippo Cazzola from I Cavalieri Prato and back rower Emiliano Caffini from Crociati. Cazzola played for Aironi against Leinster last October, but Caffini is a newcomer to this level.
MUNSTER: Felix Jones, Denis Hurley, Savenaca Tokula, Lifeimi Mafi, Simon Zebo; Scott Deasy, Duncan Williams; Wian du Preez, Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Mick O’Driscoll (capt), David O’Callaghan, Tommy O’Donnell, Paddy Butler.
Replacements: Denis Fogarty, Marcus Horan, BJ Botha, Ian Nagle, David Wallace, Cathal Sheridan, Ian Keatley, Luke O’Dea.
AIRONI RUGBY: Tito Tebaldi; Riccardo Pavan, Matteo Pratichetti, Gabriel Pizarro, Sinoti Sinoti; Luciano Orquera, Tyson Keats; Matias Aguero, Roberto Santamaria (capt), Lorenzo Romano, George Biagi, Carlo del Fava, Filippo Ferrarini, Nicola Cattina, Josh Sole.
Replacements: Fabio Ongaro, Alberto de Marchi, Salvatore Perugini, Filippo Cazzola, Emiliano Caffini, Giorgio Bronzini, Naas Olivier, Alberto Benettin.
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Filippo Bertelli, Stefano Traversi (both Italy)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Aironi Rugby to win: 16/5; Draw: 22/1; Munster to win: 1/5
Pre-Match Quotes: Mick O’Driscoll (Munster) – “It is of course great to have Wally back in the squad. Never mind the fact that he’s a class player, to see him recovered from what was a serious injury, to have him back involved, is just a great boost to us all coming at such a crucial point in the season.
“It’s always a difficult time with lads away (on international duty), and points at this stage are so crucial. People say there are no trophies given out in March, and they”e right.
“But you can lose trophies at this stage of a season. That’s why the win last weekend against the Dragons in Wales was so important.
“Now we need to back that up in Italy. We’ve virtually the same squad, a few additions like Simon (Zebo) and Denis (Hurley) and of course Wally. And that’s important too because there were a lot of bruised bodies after the last game.”
Top Scorers – 2011/12 RaboDirect PRO12: Aironi Rugby – Points: Naas Olivier 73; Tries: Nick Williams 5; Munster – Points: Ian Keatley 133; Tries: Danny Barnes, Simon Zebo 5 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, September 4, 2010 – Munster 33 Aironi Rugby 17, Musgrave Park
Sunday, February 27, 2011 – Aironi Rugby 10 Munster 20, Stadio Zaffanella
Friday, October 28, 2011 – Munster 18 Aironi Rugby 6, Musgrave Park
– This match was originally postponed on February 12 due to snow
– Aironi have lost their last three encounters in the RaboDirect PRO12. This is the Italians’ third successive home game
– Munster’s only loss in their last ten matches in all competitions was a 33-17 defeat in Ulster in the PRO12 on December 30
– The Munstermen are attempting to complete a clean sweep of victories over Italian sides this season
– Munster have comfortably won all three previous meetings with Aironi