Sunday 18 August 2019

Beefed-up Munster can make light work of Italian job

Munster v Benetton Treviso, Thomond Park, 3pm, Eir Sport 1

Conor Murray. Photo: Sportsfile
Conor Murray. Photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Defeat just will not do for Munster in their aching quest to win silverware; defeat just will not happen, with the history-makers from Treviso unlikely to create more in their first play-off bow.

As Munster announced four more departures yesterday - Duncan Williams, James Hart, Mike Sherry and Dave O'Callaghan - they will regard this as a stepping stone towards a semi-final date with Leinster.

Their great foes might, by that stage, be celebrating another Champions Cup success, a reminder of how far they have travelled but also a spur for Munster before, perhaps, they ponder some new arrivals.

Their last success in any competition, of course, came eight years ago when they downed Joe Schmidt's European champions in similar circumstances; in that year it was at the final stage.

With that in mind, the apparent indecision about Joey Carbery's availability - yesterday he stepped in, then stepped out of the official communiqué - bears the heavy schedule in mind.

Added to that, the late scratching of Keith Earls would hardly have helped soothe any frayed nerves.

If Munster do manage to make the final, they will have been on the go for nearly two months solid; a heavy work-load and one only rarely leavened by swingeing changes.

Their optimism ahead of today's task will be mindful that when they did make wholesale changes - an away tie in Treviso - Munster overcame a foreboding opening hour from the fully-loaded hosts to win impressively.

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There may be no Carbery, but a restored Conor Murray reflects that Johann van Graan is wary of taking any chances.

However, all logic and form dictates that Munster will take their chances on the field to negotiate the hurdle with ease to keep their title hopes alive.

Verdict: Munster

Munster - M Haley; A Conway, C Farrell, R Scannell, D Sweetnam; T Bleyendaal, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, S Archer, J Kleyn, T Beirne, P O'Mahony (Capt), C Cloete, CJ Stander. Reps: K O'Byrne, L O'Connor, J Ryan, B Holland, A Botha, A Mathewson, JJ Hanrahan, D Goggin.

Benetton - J Hayward; R Tavuyara, M Zanon, L Morisi, M Ioane; T Allan (Capt), D Duvenage; N Quaglio, L Bigi, M Riccioni, M Lazzaroni, F Ruzza, S Negri, A Steyn, T Halafihi. Reps: H Faiva, D Appiah, T Pasquali, I Herbst, D Budd, T Tebaldi, A Rizzi, A Sgarbi.

Ref - N Owens (WRU).

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