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Munster

Preview: Munster v Aironi

27th October 2011 18:00

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Munster s Paul O Connell C vies with Toulon s Saimone Taumoepeau R during their European H Cup rugby union match Toulon vs Munster

Paul O'Connell: Returns to lead Munster

Six of Ireland's World Cup representatives were named in Munster's starting XV for Friday's clash against Aironi at Musgrave Park.

Keith Earls, Conor Murray, Ronan O'Gara, Donnacha Ryan, Paul O'Connell and Denis Leamy are the chosen ones while Donncha O'Callaghan is listed among the replacements alongside Tomas O'Leary who is also set to make his seasonal senior debut having had a run out with the A side in Galway last Friday.

Will Chambers is at outside centre which means a switch to 12 for Danny Barnes and the return of O'Connell naturally sees him take over as captain although Peter O'Mahony who assumed that role in O'Connell's absence retains his place in the starting XV.

Five players - Johne Murphy, Doug Howlett, Barnes, Wian du Preez and O'Mahony - retain their places in the starting XV from the Ospreys game while James Coughlan missed that Ospreys clash through injury.

The selection reflects a certain urgency to get the RWC players back into action as coach Tony McGahan explained that Munster "need to hit the ground running."

"I think you'll have seen South African, English and other countries players come back and play as soon as they were out of the quarter finals," said.

"The Irish players had two weeks rest. We're already at least a week and a bit behind so we need to look at all the possibilities and people who are going to be best for us short term and long term in this 4 week block that we have," added McGahan.

Meanwhile, there are two long-awaited debuts and two other returns from the World Cup in the starting XV chosen by Aironi's head coach Rowland Phillips.

The two debutants are Andrea Masi and Luciano Orquera. Both will play their first PRO12 game after spending several years in France.

Masi will start at outside centre alongside Gilberto Pavan, with youngster Trevisan at full-back. No changes on the wings, where Sinoti Sinoti and Giovanbattista Venditti continue to pair up.

Luciano Orquera will wear the number 10 shirt in a new half-back pairing with New Zealander Tyson Keats at scrum-half.

Marco Bortolami will skipper the team from the second row for the first time in the season (11th overall).

Roberto Santamaria - Aironi captain during the World Cup - starts from the bench, Fabio Ongaro is at hooker in a front row completed by props Fabio Staibano and Matias Aguero.

In the second row Joshua Furno plays alongside Bortolami, while an unfamiliar back row takes the field in Cork.

Aironi must do without Nick Williams, former Munsterman and top try scorer in this PRO12 season with 5. Josh Sole takes his place at number eight, with Simone Favaro and Nicola Cattina at flanker.

Three other members of the Azzurri - Salvatore Perugini, Quintin Geldenhuys and Giulio Toniolatti - return from the World Cup and start from the bench.

Form: Munster have slipped to back to back defeats in the RaboDirect PRO12, but have not lost three in a row in the tournament's regular season since 2006/07. The Munstermen lost their most recent home game to the Ospreys and have not lost successive home matches in the competition since the last two games of the 2009/10 season. Aironi are still searching for that elusive first away victory but have picked up just six losing bonus points on the road since they entered the competition last season. Munster won both encounters with Aironi last season and have never lost at home to an Italian team.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Johne Murphy, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Will Chambers, 12 Danny Barnes, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Conor Murray, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Peter O'Mahony, 6 Denis Leamy, 5 Paul O'Connell (c), 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Denis Fogarty, 17 Marcus Horan, 18 John Hayes, 19 Donncha O'Callaghan, 20 Niall Ronan, 21 Tomas O'Leary, 22 Scott Deasy, 23 Lifeimi Mafi.

Aironi: 15 Ruggero Trevisan, 14 Sinoti Sinoti, 13 Andrea Masi, 12 Gilberto Pavan, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Tyson Keats, 8 Josh Sole, 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Nicola Cattina, 5 Marco Bortolami (c), 4 Joshua Furno, 3 Fabio Staibano, 2 Fabio Ongaro, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Roberto Santamaria, 17 Salvatore Perugini, 18 Luca Redolfini, 19 Quintin Geldenhuys, 20 Filippo Ferrarini, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Naas Olivier, 23 Giulio Toniolatti.

Date: Friday, October 28
Venue: Musgrave Park, Cork
Kick-off: 20:30 (19:30 GMT)
Referee: Peter Allan
Assistant Referees: John Carvill, David Keane
TMO: Brian Fitzgerald

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