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Those left behind from international duty have a point to prove this evening

It is a much-changed Munster who travel to Treviso this evening but this is their chance to show Andy Farrell they can make the step-up.

Kicking on: Can Healy prove his point in Italy?
Kicking on: Can Healy prove his point in Italy?
Image: Craig Watson/INPHO

IT SEEMS LIKE a different century never mind a game from just 20 months ago, when Benetton gave Munster the fright of their lives in a Pro14 quarter-final and, in the process, looked set to give Italian rugby one of its greatest days.

Munster survived. They went onto the semi-finals and to yet another defeat to Leinster; while Benetton went nowhere fast.

Their steady decline was the last thing either the Pro14 or Italian rugby needed. In that 2018/19 season, Benetton chalked up 11 wins, that’s 11 more than they have managed in the competition this term.

In fact, their only victory, in any competition, in 2020/21 was in the Challenge Cup. Munster, in contrast, are walking away with their Conference, chalked up a superb win in Clermont, and have not been beaten by an Italian team in over seven years.

And it’s hard to see how that will change this evening (kick-off 5pm, eir Sport), even if the Treviso based club have announced Marco Bortolami as Kieran Crowley’s successor next season.

Without a game since 9 January, Benetton suffered the indignity of losing back-to-back derbies against Zebre over the Christmas period; a considerably less intense environment compared to Munster’s battle with Leinster last weekend.

Having said that the Munster that lines up this evening contains just two players, Gavin Coombes and Mike Haley, who featured in last Saturday’s 13-10 loss.

mike-haley-wins-in-the-air Mike Haley had a decent game against Leinster last week. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It’s still a squad filled with talent, though. Seeing how Ben Healy goes at out-half will be intriguing while the selection of Josh Wycherley and the young Hawaiian, Roman Salanoa, in the front-row will also generate plenty of interest.

Wycherley, remember, came of age in Clermont last month, while Salanoa has a steady temperament as well as a superb physique and an ability to dent holes in opposing defences.

That pair aren’t the only ones with a point to prove. This is Rory Scannell, Dan Goggin and Darren Sweetnam’s chance to show Johann van Graan that they can deliver when asked to, while it’s Andy Farrell’s eye that Niall Scannell, Fineen Wycherley, Jack O’Donoghue and Gavin Coombes will be seeking to catch.

Watching over all of them will be captain, Billy Holland, who just comes into his own in games like this, fully aware that the November and February men may feel half-forgotten while the rugby world focuses on international matches, but who knows the value of good results, no matter where the TV cameras are.

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“For me, the two international windows are very important from a squad point of view,” said Holland. “You often see guys play well for their provinces in that section and a year later they’re playing international rugby. I think that’s something Irish teams do really well.”

Munster will continue that habit this evening.

Benetton: Jayden Hayward, Angelo Esposito, Joaquin Riera, Ignacio Brex, Tommaso Benvenuti, Tommaso Allan, Callum Braley, Thomas Gallo, Tomas Baravalle, Marco Riccioni, Irné Herbst, Federico Ruzza, Marco Barbini (capt), Manuel Zuliani, Toa Halafihi.

Replacements: Corniel Els, Nicola Quaglio, Tiziano Pasquali, Eli Snyman, Giovanni Pettinelli, Alberto Sgarbi, Luca Petrozzi, Leonardo Sarto.

Munster: Mike Haley; Liam Coombes, Dan Goggin, Rory Scannell, Darren Sweetnam; Ben Healy, Nick McCarthy; Josh Wycherley, Niall Scannell, Roman Salanoa; Fineen Wycherley, Billy Holland (capt); Jack O’Donoghue, Chris Cloete, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Jeremy Loughman, Stephen Archer, Thomas Ahern, Tommy O’Donnell, Paddy Patterson, JJ Hanrahan, Damian de Allende.

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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