Monday 22 January 2018

Zebo and Earls add firepower as Reds target Pro12 record

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

PETER O'MAHONY will lead Munster for the first time since being appointed club captain in Treviso tonight as Keith Earls and Simon Zebo make their seasonal bows.

Rob Penney has again shuffled his out-halves as Ian Keatley gets the chance to impress once again, with JJ Hanrahan waiting in reserve after his good display against Zebre last weekend.

Munster lost 34-10 at Treviso last season, but Penney will be hoping that his side feel the benefits of their camp at Lake Garda.

Team manager Niall O'Donovan is delighted with how the week has gone.

"It has been great and we have got a lot of work done on and off the park," the former Ireland forwards coach said.

"It was great to stay on in Italy after the Zebre game and the lads are now coming into this fixture fresh, without having had the hassle of travelling from Ireland."

POSITIVE

After a positive week, the Reds will be hoping that the returning players can hit the ground running and have the desired impact.

Earls and Zebo will add plenty of threat on the wings, while O'Mahony's physicality will be crucial in stopping the excellent Italy stalwart Alessandro Zanni in contact.

If they can follow their bonus-point wins over Edinburgh and Zebre with another four-try win, Munster will become the first club in the history of the competition to take maximum points from their first three games, although you would imagine that a win of any hue would do Penney.

Treviso are desperate for their first win of the season after defeats to Scarlets and Ospreys and have named a strong side, with former Leinster fly-half Mat Berquist starting at No 10.

On paper, Munster should have more than enough for the Italians, but they struggled for consistency in the Pro12 last season and are keen to right that this year.

"It is something we have talked about big time," flanker O'Mahony said.

"Obviously, the Heineken Cup is where we set our standards, but we weren't even close to where we wanted to be in the league. It is somewhere we are really focusing on this year."

With a number of changes to the starting line-up and an opposition desperate to win, this will be a good test of where the visitors are at this season and they should have enough to come through it.

Verdict: Munster

TREVISO – L McLean; C Loamanu, M Campagnaro, A Sgarbi, L Nitoglia; M Berquist, E Gori; M Rizzo, E Ceccato, A De Marchi; A Pavanello (capt), M Fuser; S Favarro, A Zanni, M Vosawai. Reps: G Maistri, I Fernandez-Rouyet, P Di Santo, V Bernabo, D Budd, R Barbieri, F Semenzato, A Di Bernardo.

MUNSTER – D Hurley; K Earls, C Laulala, J Downey, S Zebo; I Keatley, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, S Archer; D Ryan, B Holland; P O'Mahony (capt), N Ronan, J Coughlan. Reps: D Varley, J Cronin, J Ryan, Donncha O'Callaghan, CJ Stander, C Sheridan, JJ Hanrahan, I Dineen.

Ref – L Hodges (WRU)

Irish Independent

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