Munster seek quick return to winning ways

Van Graan makes 13 changes from Leinster defeat for the trip to Treviso

Guinness Pro14: Benetton v Munster, Stadio Monigo, Treviso, Kick-off: 6pm local time (5pm Irish). On TV: Live on eir Sport.

Munster seek to return to winning ways after last week's disappointing defeat by Leinster and extend their 11-point lead atop Conference B against the winless Benetton in Treviso this evening.

Only Mike Haley and Gavin Coombes are retained from last week's line-up, the latter switching to '8', as Ben Healy is handed the outhalf jersey and JJ Hanrahan is joined by Damian de Allende on the bench.

Academy prop Josh Wycherley and his brother Fineen start together for the first time with the Scannell brothers, Niall and Rory, and Coombes cousins Gavin and Liam.

Summer signing from Leinster, Roman Salanoa, makes his first start, and understudying the former Leinster scrumhalf Nick McCarthy is Paddy Patterson, the on-loan Leinster academy player.

Billy Holland assumes the captaincy alongside Fineen Wycherley, in the absence of the suspended Jean Kleyn, with Thomas Ahern, the athletic 6ft 9in, 20-year-old Academy lock from Waterford, in line for his fourth appearance.

“We’re very privileged to be able to travel abroad,” said Holland this week. “We’ll go over on a charter plane, we’re tested during the week, we are in a bubble when we travel, we go from a bus where the bus driver has been tested, we’re on a plane that’s a charter, straight onto another bus into a hotel.

“You’re going through airports that are dead, nobody in them, there hasn’t been a flight in two weeks. It is surreal.

"It really is crazy to think that we're going to Italy this weekend and most people can't go for a walk down the cliffs or anything like that. We're very lucky."

After a first double defeat to Zebre in five years, Benetton name five current members of Italy's Six Nations squad, Juan Ignacio Brex, Tommaso Allan, Callum Braley, Marco Riccioni and Federico Ruzza.

They haven’t won at home since December 2019 and Munster haven’t lost to Italian opposition since their defeat here in September 2013.

BENETTON RUGBY: 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.

Referee: Andrea Piardi (FIR)

Forecast: Munster to win.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times