Preview: Munster v Treviso

Date published: March 21 2014

Munster have named Paul O'Connell and Keith Earls in their starting line-up for Saturday's home RaboDirect PRO12 clash with Treviso.

Munster have named Paul O'Connell and Keith Earls in their starting line-up for the home RaboDirect PRO12 clash against Treviso on Saturday.

O'Connell starts after captaining Ireland to Six Nations glory in Paris last weekend, with Earls coming into the side for the first time since injuring his knee against Edinburgh in January.

“Paul wanted to be involved this weekend to keep building off the momentum of his successful Six Nations campaign with the Irish team,” said coach Rob Penney on the inclusion of O'Connell.

“It shows the calibre of the player – he came to watch the team train on Tuesday and he wants to contribute against Treviso and secure more game time ahead of a crucial period.”

Damien Varley returns to captain the side in his first start since January as Penney makes eleven changes to the side that were beaten by Scarlets.

Earls starts on the right wing as one of four changes to the backline with Felix Jones at 15, James Downey coming in to partner Casey Laulala in the centres and JJ Hanrahan at 10.

Johne Murphy keeps his place on the left wing with Duncan Williams staying at scrum-half.

Donnacha Ryan is the only forward to keep his place in the starting XV, shifting to flanker.

Varley, James Cronin and John Ryan make up the front-row. Billy Holland comes into the side to partner O'Connell in the second-row. Sean Dougall and Paddy Butler, who makes his first appearance since January after suffering a spinal concussion on club duty, are named in the back-row with Ryan.

New Zealand hooker Quentin MacDonald was nominated for Munster's Heineken Cup squad on Thursday and could make his debut off the bench with Irish internationals Dave Kilcoyne and Stephen Archer completing the front-row cover.

Record appearance holder Donncha O'Callaghan and CJ Stander are also named amongst the replacements.

Simon Zebo and Ian Keatley will be hoping to make an impact off the bench with Keatley looking to reach 500 points for Munster, the fly-half has scored 497 points in 66 games.

Meanwhile, Treviso have named Italy internationals Angelo Esposito, Michele Campagnaro, Edoardo Gori, Robert Barbieri, Lorenzo Cittadini and Alberto De Marchi in their starting side.

It appears hard-working hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini and full-back Luke McLean are being eased back into club rugby as they must make do with places on the replacements bench.

Form: Munster's five game winning run in all tournaments ended when they visited Llanelli on 1st March. The Munstermen are the only side left in the RaboDirect PRO12 with a 100 per cent home winning record this season. Benetton Treviso have slipped to seven straight defeats in all tournaments since beating Zebre 20-15 at Stadio Monigo over Christmas. Treviso's only away victory in any tournaments since December 2012 was when they visited Scarlets in round 22 of the PRO12 last season. Treviso have won their last two matches against Munster, but both games were played at Stadio Monigo. No Italian side has ever beaten Munster on their own soil.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11 Johne Murphy, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 Paddy Butler, 7 Sean Dougall, 6 Donnacha Ryan, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Billy Holland, 3 John Ryan, 2 Damien Varley (capt), 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Donncha O'Callaghan, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Gerry Hurley, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Simon Zebo.

Treviso: 15 Angelo Esposito, 14 Christian Loamanu, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Ludovico Nitoglia, 10 Mat Berquist, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Marco Filippucci, 6 Manoa Vosawai, 5 Valerio Bernabò, 4 Antonio Pavanello (capt), 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Giovanni Maistri, 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Matteo Muccignat, 18 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Corniel Van Zyl, 21 Luke McLean, 22 Tobias Botes, 23 James Ambrosini.

Date: Saturday, March 22
Venue: Thomond Park
Kickoff: 19:15 GMT
Referee: Leighton Hodges
Assistant Referees: Nigel Correll, David Connolly
TMO: Dermot Moloney