Wednesday 26 July 2017

Munster keen to see if new Jersey style can fit

Erasmus: “We are not on a low.” Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Erasmus: “We are not on a low.” Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

After the new breed revived the province's European prestige, now an even younger stock will seek to add substantially more evidence that such grand rehabilitation can be sustainable.

The night before the senior squad fell predictably far short of the standards set by Saracens last Saturday, their 'A' squad had embarked upon a thrilling, expansive comeback against Jersey to win the B&I Cup in Irish Independent Park.

A half dozen of that line-up will be rewarded with a Guinness PRO12 trip to Italy, including Alex Wootton, whose dazzling, length-of-the-field scamper secured the revival as the shadow squad, at times, played what seemed like a different sport to their elders.

Already guaranteed their PRO12 status, Munster make 13 changes in all to the side defeated in that Champions Cup semi-final at the Aviva; Darren O'Shea and Conor Oliver come straight into the starting XV while Kevin O'Byrne, Brian Scott, Rory Burke and Wootton are on the bench.

What could have been a grind - Rassie Erasmus (pictured) couldn't help calling this as such - is quite different from being a low; the new faces will energise the renewed assault on silverware over the next month.

"We are not on a low," insists the South African before repeating for emphasis.

"Really we are not on a low, we are realistic of what happened on Saturday, it's one of those things.

"But the B&I guys really played well. To come back from 18-0 behind and win that game against big, big boys, big Jersey guys.

"But it will take us a little bit of gelling time to make sure we are playing Treviso, it's away from home.

"Making changes to a team, we will lose some rhythm, we'll lose some continuity and you don't want to lose too much against Treviso.

"But it is great to give those boys, give them a tap on the back and say, 'You go, you've got a chance now'. It's the nature of the beast."

Billy Holland is the only player to retain his place in the pack and captains the side for the ninth time this season.

"We have lost there a few times and this will be a grind for us."

This may threaten to be a grind should the Italians live up to their sudden, surprising emergence as an imposing force in their Stadio Monigo base.

In the slow bicycle race to see who is the least worst of the hapless Italian duo - and hence earn an utterly unmerited Champions Cup spot that could deny, amongst others, Connacht - they are timing their dash better.

They have won two of their last three matches - both here - against Ospreys and Edinburgh as they threaten a first home-ground hat-trick in four years, when they achieved their last win against Munster.

They have lost every match to an Irish team this term, though, not to mention six on the bounce to Munster since that coup; in turn, the Irish side have won their last 15 against both Italians.

Munster's league form remains hot, just one loss in 14, and no away defeat since that October visit to Dublin against Leinster.

They are on track to maintain the prospect of a vengeful return to the capital; this time in the final.

"It would be nice," smiles the coach, whose team need just a point here to do so.

They, and their young team, will achieve much more than that.

Verdict: Munster

Benetton Treviso - D Odiete; A Esposito, T Benvenuti, A Sgarbi, L Sperandio; I McKinley, E Gori; F Zani, L Bigi, S Ferrari, M Fuser, D Budd capt, F Minto, A Steyn, R Barbieri. Reps: D Giazzon, A Porolli, T Pasquali, J-F Montauriol, M Lazzaroni, G Bronzini, T Tebaldi,A Pratichetti.

Munster - S Zebo; D Sweetnam, F Saili, J Taute, R O'Mahony; T Bleyendaal, D Williams; J Cronin, R Marshall, S Archer, D O'Shea, B Holland capt, D O'Callaghan, C Oliver, J O'Donoghue. Reps: K O'Byrne, B Scott, R Burke, D Ryan, CJ Stander, A Lloyd, I Keatley, A Wootton.

Ref- I Davies (WRU)

Benetton Treviso v Munster,

Live, Eurosport 2, 6.05

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