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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Munster v Benetton Treviso

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Munster v Benetton Treviso

With leaders Leinster and Ulster both winning their round 17 games, the pressure is on former table toppers Munster to return to winning ways against Benetton Treviso as the race for the RaboDirect PRO12 play-offs gathers pace.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, March 22

MUNSTER (3rd) v BENETTON TREVISO (11th), Thomond Park, 7.15pm (live TG4/deferred coverage Sport Mediaset)

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Team News: Paul O’Connell and Keith Earls have been named in the Munster team for Saturday’s RaboDirect PRO12 encounter with Benetton Treviso at Thomond Park.

O’Connell starts after captaining Ireland to Six Nations glory in Paris last weekend, with Earls coming into the side for the first time since injuring his knee against Edinburgh in January.

On the inclusion of O’Connell, Munster head coach Rob Penney said: “Paul wanted to be involved this weekend to keep building off the momentum of his successful Six Nations campaign with the Irish team.

“It shows the calibre of the player – he came to watch the team train on Tuesday and he wants to contribute against Treviso and secure more game-time ahead of a crucial period.”

Damien Varley returns to captain the province for his first start since January as Penney makes 11 changes to the Munster team that was beaten by the Scarlets in round 16.

Earls starts on the right wing as one of four changes to the back-line with Felix Jones named at full-back, James Downey coming in to partner Casey Laulala in the centre and JJ Hanrahan wearing the number 10 jersey.

Johne Murphy keeps his place on the left wing with Duncan Williams staying as the starting scrum half.

Donnacha Ryan is the only forward to keep his place in the starting line-up with the Tipperary man moving from lock to blindside flanker.

Varley, James Cronin and John Ryan make up the front row. Billy Holland comes into the side to partner O’Connell in the second row.

Sean Dougall and Paddy Butler, who makes his first appearance since January after suffering a spinal concussion on club duty, are named in the back row with Ryan.

New Zealand hooker Quentin MacDonald was nominated for Munster’s Heineken Cup squad yesterday and could make his debut off the bench with Ireland internationals David Kilcoyne and Stephen Archer completing the front row cover.

Record appearance holder Donncha O’Callaghan and CJ Stander are also named among the replacements.

Simon Zebo and Ian Keatley will be hoping to make an impact off the bench with Keatley looking to reach 500 points for Munster. The out-half has scored 497 points in his 66 appearances to date.

Gerry Hurley, who was also nominated for the Heineken Cup squad on Thursday, provides the scrum half cover.

Match tickets are available to buy online here, and will also be on sale from the Mobile Ticket Office at Hassett’s Cross on Saturday from 9am.

Ticket prices – Cat A Stand: €;40; Cat B Stand: €;30; Cat B Junior* Stand: €;10; Terrace: €;20; Terrace Junior*: €;7; Family Terrace Pack: €;40 (two adults and two juniors*). * Junior – Under-16s.

Hospitality tickets are available online here for just €;70 or you can contact the province’s Sales Development Executive on 0876202530 or via email: anthonymorrissey@munsterrugby.ie.

Meanwhile, Benetton Treviso return to Ireland three weeks on from their disappointing 38-6 defeat at the hands of Connacht.

Head coach Marius Goosen can call on a number of international players who featured for Italy during the Six Nations.

Winger Christian Loamanu, centre Michele Campagnaro and scrum half Edoardo Gori are the new inclusions in the back-line, with Gori linking up again at half-back with top points scorer Mat Berquist.

Robert Barbieri comes back in at number 8 with Marco Filippucci reverting to openside flanker, while Matteo Muccignat makes way for Alberto de Marchi in an otherwise unchanged front row.

Valerio Bernabò replaces Corniel van Zyl in the second row where he combines with captain Antonio Pavanello who will be making his 199th appearance for the club.

The list of players unavailable to Goosen includes Francesco Minto, Luca Morisi, Dean Budd, Simone Favaro, Alessandro Zanni, Franco Sbaraglini, Pedro di Santo, Paul Derbyshire and Michele Rizzo.

MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Keith Earls, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Johne Murphy; JJ Hanrahan, Duncan Williams; James Cronin, Damien Varley (capt), John Ryan, Billy Holland, Paul O’Connell, Donnacha Ryan, Sean Dougall, Paddy Butler.

Replacements: Quentin MacDonald, David Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Donncha O’Callaghan, CJ Stander, Gerry Hurley, Ian Keatley, Simon Zebo.

BENETTON TREVISO: Angelo Esposito; Christian Loamanu, Michele Campagnaro, Alberto Sgarbi, Ludovico Nitoglia; Mat Berquist, Edoardo Gori; Alberto de Marchi, Giovanni Maistri, Lorenzo Cittadini, Antonio Pavanello (capt), Valerio Bernabò, Manoa Vosawai, Marco Filippucci, Robert Barbieri.

Replacements: Leonardo Ghiraldini, Matteo Muccignat, Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, Marco Fuser, Corniel van Zyl, Luke McLean, Tobie Botes, James Ambrosini.

Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Correll, David Connolly (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Dermot Moloney (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 1/200; Draw: 66/1; Benetton Treviso to win: 25/1

Pre-Match Quotes: Rob Penney (Munster) – “Treviso have stung us a couple of times. The last two years when we were playing them at home they’ve been really robust and difficult to combat and I’m sure they’ll have their Italian internationals hanging around.

“They will be hurting after their Six Nations campaign and they’ll want to prove some points themselves, so it’s going to be very challenging on Saturday night in Thomond Park.

“Damien (Varley) has bounced back strongly in the last few weeks which is a great thing. I’m always happy when an injured player comes back because it gives me more scope for selection.

“The medics have done a great job and a few people have taken a bit longer than expected, but all in all we’re heading into this block in pretty good shape.

“It is an amazing six or eight weeks now. It’s the culmination of all the work that’s been put together in the last six or seven months.

“There will be only two teams in a position to contest a final and there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge yet.

“We’re desperately keen to be one of those teams in the competitions but there’s a lot of work to be done yet.”

Paddy Butler (Munster) – “I’m delighted to be back. It’s been a frustrating year out through injury so I’m absolutely delighted to get the opportunity to play again for my province. I’ve been out for a while so I’m very excited to be playing with Munster again.

“When I was injured I had a fairly strict and tough regime with the strength and conditioning lads. When I was coming closer to getting back playing games I played with Shannon and it was brilliant.

“It’s a great stepping stone to be able to play with your club at a high level and then come in and get your opportunity to play with Munster again.

“It (the Six Nations win) was brilliant, the lads are on an all-time high. Representing your country and winning the Six Nations is an unbelievable achievement and it’s brilliant to have Paul (O’Connell) and the lads in the squad.

“Paulie is already back in and around the Munster squad and it’s brilliant – he’s a credit to himself and his club and province and it’s great to have him around.”

Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Munster – Points: JJ Hanrahan 132; Tries: Simon Zebo 4; Benetton Treviso – Points: Mat Berquist 116; Tries: Ludovico Nitoglia 5


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
Friday, September 20, 2013 – Benetton Treviso 29 Munster 19, Stadio di Monigo


– Munster’s five-match winning run in all competitions ended when they visited Llanelli on March 1

– The Munstermen are the only side left in the RaboDirect PRO12 with a 100% home winning record this season

– Benetton Treviso have slipped to seven straight defeats in all competitions since beating Zebre 20-15 at the Stadio di Monigo over Christmas

– Treviso’s only away victory in any competition since December 2012 was when they visited the Scarlets in round 22 of the PRO12 last season

– Treviso have won their last two matches against Munster, but both games were played at the Stadio di Monigo

– No Italian side has ever beaten Munster on their own soil