Year-long wait over as Ryan returns to Munster line-up
Published 25/04/2015 | 02:30
In-form Munster are likely to have little trouble clinching victory today against a Treviso side that has not won away from Italian soil all season, but coach Anthony Foley is leaving nothing to chance.
The Munster boss has selected his strongest possible side for the arrival of the Italians to Irish Independent Park (3.05), although a shoulder injury denies Paul O'Connell his seventh Pro12 appearance of the season.
In his place Donnacha Ryan makes his first start for more than a year, while Rory Scannell also features at centre in place of the hamstrung Denis Hurley.
Munster have struggled in the last couple of season against Treviso, but both defeats to the Italians have come on the road.
Dissecting Treviso's away form makes for ugly reading. Their eight games away from Italy in this year's Pro12 have yet to yield a win, while they have conceded an average of almost 40 points per game.
And if you add in their three Champions Cup away matches you can tag on another 162 points to that poor defensive tally. In fact their last away win other than against Zebre earlier this season came against Scarlets at the end of the 2012-13 season.
On the other hand, Munster are unbeaten in their two trips to Cork this season, and have earned bonus point wins in their last two outings against Connacht and Edinburgh. They should triumph easily.
The returning Ryan will partner Billy Holland in the second-row as he continues his successful return from a foot injury.
The Irish international completed his first 80 minutes in more than a year for Munster 'A' against Ulster Ravens last week, and after a couple of appearances from the bench in the Pro12, he is deemed fit to replace the Ireland skipper.
Coincidentally, his last start for Munster came against the Italian club, and Foley has warned Ryan and his colleagues to beware of Umberto Casellato's side, who have already pushed all four Irish provinces close this season.
"They are very good, they have pride in the club they play for. They travel over here with their desire to get European rugby next year," said Foley.
"They know they have to stay ahead of Zebre. We have got to front up to try and maintain our position in the top four.
"They have their level of importance based on what they want to achieve and we have ours. It will be a good match, it will be a good contest, it will be physical, and hopeful our home advantage will see us through."
When the sides last met, Munster only made certain of a 21-10 win thanks to Ian Keatley's late kick, while the Reds also struggled to shake off their opponents in a 14-3 success at Thomond Park last season.
The home side will certainly be focused on victory today, though.
"We've got to impose our performance on them and we've got to impose our home advantage on them like they do when we go over there," said Foley.
"They give us a torrid time and sometimes you can be lucky to come out of there with a win.
More often than not over the last few years we've lost over there, so understand the pressure going into this and we understand the ability that they have and it's important for us to front up this weekend."
Aside from Ryan's return, the only other alteration in the pack comes in the front-row where Stephen Archer starts at tighthead instead of BJ Botha, while Scannell makes just his third start for the province at inside-centre alongside Andrew Smith.
After this afternoon's game, Munster have only an away trip to face Ulster and their final home game of the season against Dragons to complete.
During the week the Munster camp was loath to talk about the possibility of a bonus point win, but the chances to accumulate points are running out.
They don't come much better than this.
Munster - 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 (capt), T O'Donnell, CJ Stander. Reps: E Guinazu, J Ryan, BJ Botha, Donncha O'Callaghan, Dave O'Callaghan, D Williams, JJ Hanrahan, R O'Mahony.
Treviso - J Hayward; A Pratichetti, L Morisi, E Bacchin, L Nitoglia; S Christie, E Gori; M Zanusso, D Giazzon, R Harden; M Fuser, C Van Zyl (captain); P Derbyshire, F Minto, M Luamanu. Reps: A Anae, J Novak, R Acosta, M Swanepoel, N Cattina, M Lazzaroni, S Ragusi, J Ambrosini.
Ref - B Whitehouse (WRU)
Munster v Treviso,
Live, TG4, 3.05