RONAN O’GARA takes the captain’s armband for tonight’s Magners League clash with Benetton Treviso at Thomond Park (7.45), taking over from Denis Leamy, who gets a break after playing six of seven games for Munster this season.
Leamy has filled in with distinction for injured skipper Paul O’Connell and could well be the one being groomed to take long-term responsibility.
But O’Gara was the obvious choice in Leamy’s absence, considering his vast experience as both player and captain in the past.
James Coughlan comes in for Leamy, while Scott Deasy will be at full back – the promising youngster making his first Magners League start of the season. He has come off the bench three times and made his Heineken Cup debut last week as a late replacement for the injured Paul Warwick.
Fears about Warwick’s well-being were dispelled when he was named on the bench.
In all, there are just four changes from last week’s starting side against Toulon, with Donncha Ryan filling in for Donnacha O’Callaghan at second row and John Hayes in from the start instead of Tony Buckley. All of the match day XV played at some stage of last week’s 45-18 triumph.
Missing through injury are Marcus Horan and Jerry Flannery – replaced by Darragh Hurley and Mike Sherry — and Niall Ronan, for whom Peter O’Mahony deputises, is rested.
Ronan has been in the wars these last eight weeks after sustaining a succession of head and facial wounds and is being given time for the latest gash to heal.
There will be several new faces in Benetton Treviso’s team as the Lions come off the back of two Heineken Cup defeats.
Their South African coach Franco Smith has called Brendan Williams and Ludovico Nitoglia, Andrew Vilk, Ezio Galon, Fabio Semenzato and Kristopher Burton into a new look back division.
He didn’t stop there, Ignacio Fernandez Rouyet moving to the tight side of the scrum with hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini named as captain.
Flankers Benjamin Vermaak and Francesco Minto make their Magners League debuts, the latter also making his official debut in the green and white jersey.
Treviso will be seeking their first away win of the campaign, but they have performed admirably through five rounds of the competition. They had three of four wins at home — against Llanelli (34-28), Leinster (29-13) and Newport Gwent Dragons (20-13). They lost to Cardiff Blues (7-19) and in their only away fixture to Ospreys (16-32).
Those results alone should be enough for Munster players and fans to sit up and take notice this will be no easy game to win.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved