Munster must hit the ground running for Treviso test, warns Foley
TONY McGAHAN has done remarkably well to manage his squad resources this season in the face of Ireland demands and a torrid run of injuries.
Finally, the Munster coach must be glad to catch a few breaks in terms of player availability.
Felix Jones, out since August, and Tommy O'Donnell are fit again and, with a clutch of players released from Six Nations duty, McGahan is able to name a powerful match-day squad for today's Pro12 clash with Treviso at the Stadio Monigo.
Ronan O'Gara and Tomas O'Leary form a Grand Slam-winning half-back combination and both carry considerable motivation into the fixture as they seek to reassert their international front-line credentials.
There is an intriguing look to the back-row where Peter O'Mahony starts at openside, the position that could hold the key to his long-term aspirations, alongside the Dolphin pair of Dave O'Callaghan and James Coughlan.
O'Callaghan has come on considerably this season; an extremely athletic, footballing back-row who will benefit from this exacting fixture, won by Treviso last season.
The Italians lost heavily to Leinster last week but they are a tough unit, particularly at the Monigo, and will note that Munster have not won away from home in the league since September. They have some rugged performers in the pack in the shape of naturalised Italy stars Cornelius van Zyl and Paul Derbyshire, while veteran Brendan Williams still carries plenty of zip in the backline.
After last weekend's clash with Aironi was postponed due to the weather, Munster will be keen to get back to business, although assistant coach Anthony Foley is expecting some adjustment time.
"It's important that we hit the ground running after being inactive for over a month," said Foley.
"I'd expect there to be a bit of rustiness, but the lads have gone well in training. Treviso are probably one of the most improved sides this season. We lost here last year so we have a fair idea of what we are up against, they won't be waiting around for us."
Very true but Munster, with their strengthened bench, look well equipped to get the points.
TREVISO -- L Nitoglia; T Iannone, E Galon, A Sgarbi, B Williams; W De Waal, F Semenzato; M Muccignat, F Sbaraglini, P Di Santo; A Pavanello (capt), C van Zyl; P Derbyshire, B Vermaak, M Filippucci. Reps: E Ceccato, A Allori, I Fernandez Rouyet, V Bernabò, G Padrò, G Garcia, E Gori, A Di Bernardo.
MUNSTER -- D Hurley; J Murphy, D Barnes, L Mafi, S Zebo; R O'Gara, T O'Leary; W du Preez, D Varley, BJ Botha; D Ryan, M O'Driscoll (capt); D O'Callaghan, P O'Mahony, J Coughlan. Reps: D Fogarty, M Horan, S Archer, B. Holland, T O'Donnell, D Williams, S Deasy, F Jones.
REF -- N Hennessy (Wales).
Treviso v Munster,
Live, RTE 2, 3.15