Treviso make life easier for Penney on his Thomond bow
New Munster coach Rob Penney will get his first taste of the Thomond Park experience tonight and Treviso have ensured it will be a winning one by sticking out a depleted team for the Pro12 clash.
Despite beating champions Ospreys 12-6 at home last weekend, the Italians have added yet more fuel to critics of the Pro12 by ripping that combination to shreds. That won't bother Penney too much after last week's encouraging win in Edinburgh.
"Playing at Thomond Park is exciting for me," says Penney. "I just have to keep the lid on myself, so that I don't bubble up too much and put the boys off. It will be a wonderful experience."
Utility forward Billy Holland, who once more packs down in the second-row beside veteran Donncha O'Callaghan, is one of those seeking to maintain a decent run of early form for the new coach.
With Stephen Archer and Damian Varley trusted in the front-row against a side who will seek to exploit the set-piece, the confidence from last week's success in Edinburgh will be of benefit to Munster.
"It was a great win for us," Holland enthuses. "A huge improvement on the previous few weeks, as a team we worked very hard for it. Certainly a huge improvement on the pre-season friendlies.
"It was the intensity in everything we did, levels of concentration went up. To be fair, it should've been there in the early games but when there are points at stake and it's a competitive game, fellas' attitudes are certainly different.
"Okay, we conceded three tries but two of those were from a good distance out. But I think the difference was that there was just a marked improvement in concentration and intensity."
Speaking before the opposition's team was named, Holland waxed with typical Munster lyricism upon their Italian opponents. "They've been improving consistently year by year and they beat Ospreys so that gives us a fair indication."
Until they named their team, of course. In all, Treviso made eight changes, consigning most of their internationals to a bench containing six forwards. They are clearly not pitching up in Limerick to fling the ball around. Franco Smith has retained just two of the pack -- hooker Enrico Ceccato and wing-forward Simone Favaro.
Treviso do retain the international half-back pairing of Edoardo Gori and Alberto Di Bernardo and Corniel van Zyl, Alessandro Zanni, Kristopher Burton and Fabio Semenzato lurk on the bench.
Munster -- D Hurley; D Howlett (capt), C Laulala, J Downey, L O'Dea; I Keatley, D Williams; W du Preez, D Varley, S Archer, D O'Callaghan, B Holland, D O'Callaghan, S Dougall, J Coughlan. Reps: M Sherry, D Kilcoyne, BJ Botha, D Foley, P Butler, P Stringer, S Deasy, I Dineen.
Treviso -- B Williams; L Nitoglia, A Sgarbi, L Morisi, T Iannone; A Di Bernardo, E Gori; M Rizzo, E Ceccato, L Cittadini, A Pavanello (capt), V Bernabo, S Favaro, D Budd, P Derbyshire. Reps: G Maistri, A De Marchi, I Fernandez-Rouyet, C Van Zyl, R Barbieri, A Zanni, F Semenzato, K Burton.
Ref -- A McMenemy (SRU)
Munster v Benetton Treviso,
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