Tommy O’Donnell steps up as Munster focus on Treviso

Munster must plan without Peter O’Mahony for this afternoon’s Guinness PRO12 tie against Treviso at Thomond Park.

O’Mahony was released from Ireland camp earlier this week — and participated in a provincial session on Wednesday — and looked set to feature for the province this weekend.

However O’Mahony, along with Rory Scannell, were then put on standby for the national side on Thursday night following injury concerns over Sean O’Brien and Jared Payne, who sat out yesterday’s captain’s run at the Aviva ahead of their clash with Australia tomorrow.

Tommy O’Donnell continues in the captaincy role he fulfilled so impressively against the Maori All Blacks. Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus has made seven changes from that game. Anything other than a Munster victory with a try-scoring bonus point would come as a disappointment to a Red Army that may have become slightly spoiled by a series of outstanding results and performances.

But Erasmus cautions: “We will have to be very sharp to make sure there is no surprise. Any time you talk about Italian sides, you are talking physicality, scrums, and mauls. Even though they have only won one game (against the Dragons back in September), the last game they played (v Cardiff), there was only six points in it. I know their coach Marius Goosen and he has a great rugby brain, so I know they’ll be well prepared.”

That may be the case but international demands mean Treviso are minus 11 players who are involved this afternoon with Italy against Tonga. In contrast, Joe Schmidt has included only four Munstermen in his squad to face Australia but Erasmus is enthused by the outstanding form displayed by a number of replacements against Ospreys and Maori when the internationals were also missing.

New Zealander Rhys Marshall starts at hooker, second-row Dave Foley and centre Sam Arnold (making his first competitive appearance) have recovered from injury and Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Jack O’Donoghue, and Billy Holland return from international duty. Erasmus understands that the attendance this afternoon will be a long way short of the three successive full houses they enjoyed against Glasgow, Ospreys, and the Maori All Blacks but promises those in attendance that they will do all they can to provide a performance worthy of their loyalty. “We have been honoured to play in front of full houses but one also has to understand that the timing of the game and Test matches on TV... it would be great if the crowds come out but as we always say, we must perform to get them there the next day.”

MUNSTER:

A Conway; D Sweetnam, S Arnold, J Taute, R O’Mahony; T Bleyendaal, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, R Marshall, J Ryan, D Foley, D O’Shea, J O’Donoghue, T O’Donnell capt, R Copeland.

Replacements:

N Scannell, T du Toit, S Archer, J Kleyn, B Holland, A Lloyd, I Keatley, A Wootton.

TREVISO:

J Hayward; M Tagicakibau, M Iannone, A Sgarbi capt, L Sperandio; I McKinley, T Tebaldi; A Di Marchi, L Bigi, M Zanusso, F Gerosa, M Van Vuren, M Lazzaroni, F Ferrarini, M Barbini.

Replacements:

D Giazzon, F Zani, T Pasqali, R Santamaria, F Conforti, H Francescato, A Prattichetti, D Odieti.

Referee:

M Adamson (Scotland).

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