Varley says Munster are ready to push on

Stephen Archer and Dave O’Callaghan will make their first starts of the season tomorrow night when Munster make their home debut of the season against Treviso at Thomond Park (8pm).

Munster, with new head coach Rob Penney in charge for the first time, opened their RaboDirect Pro12 campaign last Saturday with a 23-18 win over Edinburgh at Murrayfield and the New Zealander has made two changes from the side which started in the Scottish capital.

Archer comes in at tighthead prop for BJ Botha having been an unused substitute in Edinburgh, with the South African dropped to the bench. O’Callaghan has recovered from a small calf tear that kept him out of the final pre-season friendly against London Irish on August 24 as well as last weekend.

He comes in at blindside flanker, replacing Paddy Butler in the number six jersey, who in turn displaces Barry O’Mahony from the replacements bench.

“It is exciting for Archie to get a start,” Penney said of the 24-year-old prop. “He has been toiling away really well in the pre-season component of it. Now is the chance for him to display his wares.”

Archer will pack down alongside hooker Damien Varley, who has been part of successful scrummaging and lineout units throughout pre-season and into the campaign proper.

Not only is the Munster pack adjusting to both a new scrum sequence of “crouch, touch, set” rather than “crouch, touch, pause, engage”, and a five-second use of the ball time limit at the breakdown, but extra responsibilities in terms of implementing Penney’s faster-paced game plan.

“We’re trying to be a fitter pack, the way we try and play the game this year,” Varley said.

“We’re trying to play a fast-paced game. The scrum (sequence) it took a while to get used to it and it’s been a bit messy. It might still be a bit messy for the first few rounds until we get used to referees and they get used to the way we’re going to attack it.

“But it’s a lot faster, a lot harder across the line and that’s because we feel we have a good pack, we try and dominate and get a good feed across the line and get a good hit.”

Varley said he was feeling fitter and stronger after this pre-season than previous ones, adding: “We’ve started more confidently. The guys that have come in have brought a great buzz and there’s good atmosphere around so we certainly felt fitter and stronger. We probably didn’t show it in the three pre-season games but it’s the business end now and we’re looking to push forward in those areas.”

The next opportunity comes against Treviso, who opened their season with a home win over last year’s champions Ospreys.

“Treviso have been very strong and we’ve struggled against them the last few seasons,” Varley said. “They’ve been very dominant up front, they’ve a very strong and physical pack with a good set-piece.

“We want to try and focus on our home games, especially Thomond Park. It’s a special place for us and we want to go unbeaten at home.”

MUNSTER (v Treviso): D Hurley; D Howlett (captain), C Laulala, J Downey, L O’Dea; I Keatley, D Williams; W du Preez, D Varley, S Archer; Donncha O’Callaghan, B Holland; Dave O’Callaghan, S Dougall, J Coughlan.

Replacements: M Sherry, D Kilcoyne, BJ Botha, D Foley, P Butler, P Stringer, S Deasy, I Dineen.

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