RaboDirect PRO12 leaders Munster complete the second leg of their extended stay in Italy when they visit a Benetton Treviso side hunting for their opening win of the new campaign.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, September 20
BENETTON TREVISO (11th) v MUNSTER (1st), Stadio di Monigo, 8.30pm local time/7.30pm Irish time (live Mediaset/RTÉ Two extended highlights on Saturday evening)
Team News: Peter O’Mahony will kick off his season as Munster captain against Benetton Treviso on Friday night in round 3 of the RaboDirect PRO12.
The returning O’Mahony, who captained Ireland on their summer tour to North America, is joined by 2013 Lion Simon Zebo who will also be making his seasonal debut on the left wing.
There is further positive news with the return of Keith Earls who is also named on the right wing for the first time since sustaining a shoulder injury against Clermont Auvergne in last April’s Heineken Cup semi-final.
There is a new back row for the Stadio di Monigo encounter with O’Mahony linking up with Niall Ronan and number 8 James Coughlan. Tommy O’Donnell is out of the squad following a knee injury sustained in last Friday’s bonus point win over Zebre.
In rotating the squad, head coach Rob Penney has opted for new half-backs this week with Duncan Williams and Ian Keatley replacing Cathal Sheridan and JJ Hanrahan in the starting line-up.
Please note that the Treviso v Munster game will not be televised live in Ireland, but RTÉ Two will show extended match highlights on Saturday evening from 6pm.
Meanwhile, Benetton Treviso have shuffled their deck for the visit of Munster – a team they comprehensively beat 34-10 when the sides last met at Stadio di Monigo in February.
Luke McLean reverts to full-back with Christian Loamanu coming back in on the right wing, while Michele Campagnaro – one of Treviso’s best performers in the 26-10 loss to the Scarlets last time out – will be partnered by the returning Alberto Sgarbi in the centre.
Former Leinster recruit Mat Berquist starts at half-back alongside the fit-again Edoardo Gori, while hooker Enrico Ceccato and Alberto de Marchi are the new inclusions in the front row.
Marco Fuser replaces the benched Valerio Bernabò in the second row, with Simone Favaro starting at blindside flanker and Fijian Manoa Vosawai moving back to number 8 in a rejigged back row.
BENETTON TREVISO: Luke McLean; Christian Loamanu, Michele Campagnaro, Alberto Sgarbi, Ludovico Nitoglia; Mat Berquist, Edoardo Gori; Michele Rizzo, Enrico Ceccato, Alberto de Marchi, Antonio Pavanello (capt), Marco Fuser, Simone Favaro, Alessandro Zanni, Manoa Vosawai.
Replacements: Giovanni Maistri, Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, Pedro di Santo, Valerio Bernabò, Dean Budd, Robert Barbieri, Fabio Semenzato, Alberto di Bernardo.
MUNSTER: Denis Hurley; Keith Earls, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; David Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer, Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Niall Ronan, James Coughlan.
Replacements: Damien Varley, James Cronin, John Ryan, Donncha O’Callaghan, CJ Stander, Cathal Sheridan, JJ Hanrahan, Ivan Dineen.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Marius Mitrea, Filippo Navarra (both Italy)
Television Match Official: Mauro Dordolo (Italy)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Benetton Treviso to win: 8/5; Draw: 20/1; Munster to win: 8/15
Pre-Match Quotes: Donnacha Ryan (Munster) – “It’s been fantastic (pre-season and the good start to the league). From a personal perspective, I didn’t get to do much of last season’s pre-season though injury. This one has been very good.
“If you were to compare it to this time last year we got a drubbing against London Irish and guys didn’t know what they were supposed to do.
“Having had a year with the new coaching set-up and new approach to the game, guys are a lot more comfortable in their responsibilities.
“You can see that (the ball-handling has improved) the last couple of games. Guys are comfortable with one another through training and everything.
“You know what guys are thinking. We haven’t got a large amount of guys coming in this year and basically lads are realising there are opportunities there for them.
“Peter has (already) taken his seat at the back of the bus. He has the backing from all the players (as our new captain).
“All the guys think he’s a wonderful fella to have around. He represents us all. It’s exciting for him and I’m delighted for him and his family. It’s a massive honour but it’s an accolade that sits well with him.”
Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Benetton Treviso – Points: Alberto di Bernardo 14; Tries: Simone Favaro, Ludovico Nitoglia 1 each; Munster – Points: JJ Hanrahan 28; Tries: CJ Stander 2
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, October 22, 2010 – Munster 39 Benetton Treviso 13, Thomond Park
Sunday, February 13, 2011 – Benetton Treviso 19 Munster 18, Stadio di Monigo
Saturday, January 7, 2012 – Munster 29 Benetton Treviso 11, Thomond Park
Saturday, February 18, 2012 – Benetton Treviso 14 Munster 35, Stadio di Monigo
Friday, September 7, 2012 – Munster 19 Benetton Treviso 6, Thomond Park
Sunday, February 24, 2013 – Benetton Treviso 34 Munster 10, Stadio di Monigo
– Benetton Treviso were defeated at home to the Ospreys in round 1 and away at the Scarlets in round 2, but have not lost three games in-a-row since last November
– The Italians have drawn their last two games against Irish provinces: 29-all in Ulster in March and 23-all at home to Connacht in April
– Munster are bidding to become the first side ever to begin a RaboDirect PRO12 season with three maximum point victories
– The Munstermen’s last two away games have both coincidentally been in Italy, beating Zebre in Parma on both occasions
– Treviso have won two of their six previous encounters with Munster in the PRO12, while Munster’s only victory in the competition at Stadio di Monigo came in February 2012