Zebo and Earls make return for Munster


Zebo and Earls make return for Munster

Newly-appointed captain O’Mahony leads Munster into battle against thorny opponents Treviso at the Stadio di Monigo in round three of the RaboDirect Pro 12 tournament.

Returning international O’Mahony is joined by Simon Zebo and Keith Earls, but it’s not all good news for Munster, as the highly promising Tommy O’Donnell is ruled out through injury.

Yet Munster’s back-row unit made up of O’Mahony, James Coughlan and Niall Ronan will be expected to produce something special against Treviso and head coach Rob Penney also goes with new half-backs this week.

Duncan Williams and Ian Keatley replace Cathal Sheridan and JJ Hanrahan in the starting line-up. This is clearly an interesting battle of wits against the Italian side and Penney appears to have a very decent eight- man bench from which to choose.

Starting in the absence of O’Donnell is Ronan and that’s a great chance for a man who has suffered his own share of injuries in the last couple of years.

Munster won’t be holding back against Treviso on the basis of an away defeat last year which, arguably, wrecked their chances of challenging for the Pro12 title. A very positive focus on this year’s championship has, so far, helped them into top position in the league.

It’s early days yet, of course, but Munster’s two opening victories, with bonus points, does put them into a decent position of strength as the season progresses.

Coach Franco Smith on the Italian side has shuffled a few cards and will be banking on New Zealander Luke McLean to help them through.

Smith has rung the changes from their most recent game against Llanelli and McLean moves to number 15 with Christian Loamanu moving to the wing.

BENETTON: L McLean, C Loamanu, M Campagnaro, A Sgarbi, L Nitoglia, M Berquist, E Gori, M Rizzo, E Ceccato, A de Marchi, A Pavanello (captain), M Fuser, S Favaro, M Vosowait, A Zann.

Replacements: G Maistri, I Fernandex-Rouyet, P Di Santo, V Bernabo, D Bubb, R Berbieri, F Senenzato, A di Bernardo.

MUNSTER: D Hurley; K Earls, C Laulala, J Downey, S Zebo; I Keatley, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, S Archer; D Ryan, B Holland, P O’Mahony (captain) N Ronan, J Coughlan.

Replacements: D Varley, J Cronin, J Ryan, D O’Callaghan, CJ Stander, C Sheridan, JJ Hanrahan, I Dineen.

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