Payne believes depleted Munster can still prevail

MUNSTER’S comfortable position at the top of the Magners League will be under threat tomorrow when they meet Benetton Treviso in the Stadio Comunale di Monigo.

However, between injuries and international commitments, Munster are sorely depleted but team manager Shaun Payne believes they can still prevail against a team that relishes taking big scalps on home soil.

Payne will rely on youth to a big extent, but Munster still travel with a fairly formidable bench.

There will be no excuses for defeat despite the fact players like Mick O’Driscoll, Donnacha Ryan and Denis Hurley will be kicking their heels on the sidelines.

“For starters, we have some injuries plus the fact that there is a lot of involvement with the Irish camp. So that makes it extremely difficult to pick guys who haven’t been involved in the past three weeks.

“Still, it provides us and certain players with an opportunity. There is no hiding place in Europe, but all of these guys have been involved at some stage in the B and I Cup and they’ve all played for us at different stages.”

Scrum-half Cathal Sheridan, an Academy player based with UL Bohemian, has been called into the 22 on the basis of Peter Stringer’s elevation back to Ireland’s squad and the fact that Conor Murray has been ruled out through injury.

But Payne emphasised 21 year-old Sheridan has what it takes: “He’s a very good player. It’s unfortunate Conor has been ruled out but Cathal has had some really excellent performances for UL Bohs; he’s highly rated by everyone here in Munster.”

Of more concern to Payne was Treviso’s form: “We won’t be listening to any sob stories about them missing so many internationals. We fully expect to have a very tough game and we have our own goals; we want to win every game possible.

“I know we have opened up a bit of a gap at the top but that can close very quickly, and the next few games are crucial.

“We’re looking at this game to start to take the momentum into the next two or three after that. We have Edinburgh at home after this, Aironi away after that, and then we’re at home to the Dragons.”

MUNSTER: S Deasy, D Howlett (captain), T Gleeson, L Mafi, S Zebo, P Warwick, D Williams, Darragh Hurley, D Varley, S Archer, D Foley, I Nagle, B Holland, J Coughlan, T O’Donnell.

Replacements: M Sherry, P Borlase, W Du Preez, M O’Driscoll, D Ryan, C Sheridan, S Tuitupou, Denis Hurley.

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