Munster will be keen to banish memories of last weekend’s disappointing outing in Llanelli when they look to complete a season’s double over Benetton Treviso on Sunday afternoon.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Sunday, February 24
BENETTON TREVISO (9th) v MUNSTER (6th), Stadio di Monigo, 3pm local time/2pm Irish time (delayed coverage TG4/live SportItalia 2)
Team News: Felix Jones and James Downey will line out for Munster against Benetton Treviso in the RaboDirect PRO12 on Sunday, returning to the starting line-up for the first time since the Racing Metro 92 match in mid-January.
Jones had minor surgery on a knee after that Heineken Cup victory over Racing on January 20, which kept him sidelined until now.
Downey’s last outing was also the French club and he has missed the last two games with a rib injury.
Casey Laulala has also been restored to the starting line-up for the first time since he partnered Downey in the RaboDirect PRO12 derby match against Ulster just after Christmas.
Laulala did appear off the Munster bench in the subsequent games against the Cardiff Blues, Edinburgh and Racing.
He then missed the province’s next two fixtures while back home in New Zealand, but returned to action as a second half replacement for Ivan Dineen in Llanelli last Saturday.
James Coughlan and Tommy O’Donnell return from the Ireland set-up to make the trip to Italy this weekend as does hooker Damien Varley, who was a late withdrawal from the squad to face the Scarlets due to a knee injury.
Captained again by Mike Sherry, the Munster squad will travel to Dublin this evening where they will stay overnight before catching an early flight to Venice on Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, Benetton Treviso are in the midst of three successive league matches against Irish opposition. They were beaten 40-5 by Leinster in Dublin in the previous round and face a trip to Ravenhill next week.
For the visit of Munster head coach Franco Smith has restored Brendan Williams to full-back with Giulio Toniolatti reverting to the left wing.
Top-scoring out-half Alberto di Bernardo returns at the expense of James Ambrosini, while Marco Fuser also makes way for the inclusion of Valerio Bernabò in the second row alongside skipper Corniel van Zyl.
Filippo Giusti has been added to the back row along with Christian Loamanu. The latter will start at number 8 in place of Manoa Vosawai who replaced the suspended Sergio Parisse in the Italy team to play Wales.
BENETTON TREVISO: Brendan Williams; Ludovico Nitoglia, Andrea Pratichetti, Gideon la Grange, Giulio Toniolatti; Alberto di Bernardo, Fabio Semenzato; Michele Rizzo, Giovanni Maistri, Jacobus Roux, Valerio Bernabò, Corniel van Zyl (capt), Dean Budd, Filippo Giusti, Christian Loamanu.
Replacements: Franco Sbaraglini, Matteo Muccignat, Pedro di Santo, Marco Fuser, Marco Filippucci, James Ambrosini, Luca Morisi, Tommaso Iannone.
MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Denis Hurley, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Johne Murphy; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; Wian du Preez, Mike Sherry (capt), Stephen Archer, Ian Nagle, Billy Holland, Paddy Butler, Tommy O’Donnell, James Coughlan.
Replacements: Damien Varley, John Ryan, BJ Botha, David Foley, CJ Stander, Cathal Sheridan, JJ Hanrahan, Ivan Dineen.
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Stefano Traversi, Stefano Marrama (both Italy)
Television Match Official: Mauro Dordolo (Italy)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Benetton Treviso to win: 15/8; Draw: 18/1; Munster to win: 2/5
Pre-Match Quotes: Rob Penney (Munster) – “We did some good things and didn’t get the result (against the Scarlets), but that doesn’t mean the team performed badly the whole way through.
“We just had one of those lapses, close but no cigar. Treviso got a wee bit embarrassed last week against Leinster and will be a different team altogether on their home turf. So we must make sure we are accurate and complete the opportunities we create.
“Paul (O’Connell) seems to be progressing nicely. There’s always a bit of a buzz for the other guys when Paul is involved and it’s nice to have him well but we’re just drip fed the information from the medics because they don’t want us to get too excited.”
Top Scorers – 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Benetton Treviso – Points: Alberto di Bernardo 52; Tries: Robert Barbieri 6; Munster – Points: Ian Keatley 108; Tries: Tommy O’Donnell 4
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
– Benetton Treviso’s only win so far in 2013 was 17-14 at home to the Ospreys in the Heineken Cup on January 20
– The Italians have won three of their last four home games at the Stadio di Monigo
– Munster have lost two of their last three games in the RaboDirect PRO12, but have won two of their last three away from home in the competition
– The Munstermen tripped up 21-17 away to Aironi on their most recent visit to Italy
– Treviso’s only previous victory over Munster was a 19-18 triumph at the Stadio di Monigo in the RaboDirect PRO12 in February 2011