It’s going to be a red letter day at Musgrave Park this afternoon for classy Munster and Irish flanker Tommy O’Donnell, who is poised to win his 100th cap for the province — all this in a week when he has been named in a group of three earmarked for the Player of the Year award.
It’s also another big day for talented young centre Rory Scannell, the Ireland U20, who is selected alongside Andrew Smith and is to win his third senior cap for the province.
But there will be nothing left to chance and no time for personal celebrations when Munster take on outsiders Treviso in what increasingly looks like a sell-out Guinness Pro12 clash.
Well over 7,000 tickets have already been sold for a tie that Munster simply have to win to strengthen their strong position within the top four, knowing that a slip-up — with ties against Ulster and Newport Gwent Dragons to come — could be catastrophic.
For Treviso, it’s also a huge run-in to the season as they bid to stay within the European elite next season.
Earlier this week, Munster head coach Anthony Foley plus players O’Donnell and Keith Earls pointed to the significance of the fixture and the vital importance of the result, with Foley highlighting the fact that Treviso, although in the lower reaches of the league, will be playing for a place in European rugby next year to keep ahead of Zebre, their big Italian rivals.
Foley is not taking any chances and although there was no sign of the iconic Paul O’Connell in yesterday’s team selection, he has been hugely boosted by the availability of Donnacha Ryan, who slots into the team alongside Billy Holland in the second row.
Foley has named a very strong team and there are just three changes from the side that demolished Edinburgh in Murrayfield a fortnight ago.
There are two changes in the pack with Stephen Archer starting in the front row and Ryan coming in to join the back five. Since his return from a foot injury in March, Ryan has featured twice from the bench in the PRO12 and completed his first 80 minutes when lining out for Munster ‘A’ against the Ulster Ravens last week.
Once again Peter O’Mahony lines up alongside O’Donnell and CJ Stander who is also in the running for Munster Player of the Year.
The inclusion of academy player Rory Scannell is the final change to the starting line-up, in a backline that sees Conor Murray and Ian Keatley remain at half-back, Scannell joins Smith in the midfield while Simon Zebo, Keith Earls and Felix Jones all continue in the back three.
F Jones; K Earls, A Smith, R Scannell, S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, D Casey, S Archer; B Holland, D Ryan; P O’Mahony (captain), T O’Donnell, CJ Stander.
E Guinazu, J Ryan, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, Dave O’Callaghan, D Williams, JJ Hanrahan, R O’Mahony.
J Hayward, A Pratichetti, L Morisi, E Bacchin, L Nigoglia, S Christie, E Gori, M Zanusso, D Giazzon, R Harden, M Fuser, C Van Zyl (captain), P Derbyshire, F Minto, M Luamanu.
A Anae, J Novak, R Acosta, M Swanepoel, N Cattina, M Lazzaroni, S Ragusi, J Abrosini.