Monday 22 January 2018

Treviso are improving all the time, warns Holland

Munster lock Billy Holland. Photo: Sportsfile
Munster lock Billy Holland. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

It's impossible to know at this stage what kind of impact Munster's messy coaching situation will have on the players, and opening their new campaign at home to Treviso is unlikely to offer any further clues into their conundrum.

The players and coaches have all insisted that the uncertainty surrounding Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber's departure date hasn't dampened the squad's preparations and that may indeed be the case but, deep down, they will each know that this scenario is far from ideal.

What is also true is that, the loss of Donnacha Ryan aside, Munster now have a stronger squad. Had they been able to keep hold of their coaching staff as well, this season had huge potential.

It still does to some degree but losing two key members of your brains-trust mid-season has to damage morale along the way.

Treviso coming to Irish Independent Park on the opening night provides Munster with an ideal opportunity to keep the doubters at bay for a while yet but, then again, Leinster thought the same this time last year and they struggled to a narrow win over the Italians.

Munster may have won their last nine meetings with Treviso but even still Billy Holland has warned against a potential banana skin.

"They've made a few serious signings over the summer," the experienced lock said.

"Even last season, they got better and better every week they went on. We struggled over there at the end of last season. I think we got a few run-away tries towards the end of the game.

"They've always had a massive pack and they've added to that this summer. Their backs are so elusive so it makes them a difficult team to analyse. To be honest, it's hard to know what you're going to get out of them.

"Treviso have come on leaps and bounds and I think they are going to take a huge number of scalps this season. It's our job to ensure that doesn't happen in the first round of the season."

Chris Farrell makes his competitive Munster debut in the centre to form a mouthwatering partnership with Jaco Taute.

Academy flanker Seán O'Connor makes his first Guinness PRO14 appearance, while new signings James Hart and Ciaran Parker will be looking to do the same from the bench.

Hooker Mike Sherry is in line to play his first competitive game since May 2016 but that good news was offset by Gerbrandt Grobler (ankle) needing to see a specialist, with Conor Oliver (shoulder) ruled out until the new year and James Cronin (knee) also missing the opening few games of the season.

Treviso, who include Ian McKinley at full-back, will play in Conference B and with Munster in A, this will be the only time that the two sides will meet this season.

In that sense, Munster must make tonight count. Claiming the maximum five points will be the order of the day - they should comfortably manage that.

Verdict: Munster

Munster - A Conway; D Sweetnam, C Farrell, J Taute, A Wootton; T Bleyendaal (capt), D Williams; L O'Connor, R Marshall, S Archer; J Kleyn, B Holland; S O'Connor, T O'Donnell, J O'Donoghue. Reps: M Sherry, B Scott, C Parker, F Wycherley, R Copeland, J Hart, I Keatley, D Goggin.

Benetton Rugby - I McKinley; A Esposito, T Benvenuti, T Allan, E Gori; M Banks, T Tebaldi; F Zani, L Bigi, S Ferrari; D Budd (capt), M Lazzaroni; F Minto, S Negri, W Douglas. Reps: E Makelara, C Traore, M Riccioni, F Ruzza, A Steyn, G Bronzini, A Sgarbi, A Buondonno.

REF - I Davies (WRU)

  • Munster v Benetton Rugby, Live, TG4, 7.35

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