Murray and Earls return to bolster Munster against fired-up Benetton

Pro 14 quarter-final preview: Munster v Benetton, Thomond Park, 3pm (Live eir sport 1)

Scrumhalf Conor Murray and winger Keith Earls will both start against Benetton at Thomond Park. Photograph: Inpho

Scrumhalf Conor Murray and winger Keith Earls will both start against Benetton at Thomond Park. Photograph: Inpho

 

History made by the Italians in gaining a first Pro14 quarter-final, this is a match Munster didn’t want. A straight to the semi-final stage would have done nicely for coach Johann van Graan.

Instead he faces a side hell bent on proving a point that Benetton belong, which they have already done in drawing with Leinster at the RDS earlier this season.

As has been pointed out, Benetton fill their side with Italian international players and to that end van Graan recalls scrumhalf Conor Murray, wing Keith Earls and centre Rory Scannell. Irish outhalf Joey Carbery remains sidelined. Peter O’Mahony captains the side.

Benetton recall winger Ratuva Tavuyara and outside centre Marco Zanon after injury, making four changes in total from the win over Zebre last Saturday. The half backs are also an area of strength with Dewaldt Duvenage at scrum half and captain Tommaso Allan at outhalf. But Munster look much too strong.

On other matters and following further investigation into the incident involving a spectator confronting Saracens’ Billy Vunipola at the Ricoh Arena in their European Champions Cup semi-final, Munster have confirmed a decision to prohibit the un-named supporter from attending matches at Musgrave Park and Thomond Park.

MUNSTER: M Haley; A Conway, C Farrell, R Scannell, K Earls; T Bleyendaal, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, S Archer; J Kleyn, T Beirne; P O’Mahony, C Cloete, CJ Stander. Replacements: K O’Byrne, J Loughman, J Ryan, B Holland, A Botha, A Mathewson, JJ Hanrahan, D Goggin.

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

Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)

Verdict: Home win

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