Sunday 11th March, 14.00 (Not televised)
Munster’s 24-14 win over the Dragons last Saturday lifted them into 2nd in the PRO12 table. This weekend, they play the game in hand which they have been carrying since this fixture, originally scheduled for early February, was cancelled because of a snow-covered Stadio Zaffanella. Tony McGahan’s men will be keen to cut Leinster’s 12-point lead at the top of the table on Sunday.
David Wallace is included in the match day squad for the first time this season having recovered from the knee injury sustained last August against England. Hooker Mike Sherry makes his first start since September, fully recuperated after a long-term ankle injury, while 23-year-old Scott Deasy gets a chance to impress at outhalf. The talented Paddy Butler starts at No.8 and with Tomas O’Leary called up to the Ireland squad, Cathal Sheridan is included on the bench. The Academy scrumhalf is one to watch.
With 8 of their players involved in the Italian squad to take on Wales, Aironi’s second-string looks less than intimidating. Injuries and suspensions also taken into account, Aironi are severely stretched. Scrumhalf Tito Tebaldi has been asked to start at fullback and Munster will surely target the Italian international playing in such an unfamiliar role. Aironi can still call on other Italy caps like Matteo Pratichetti, Luciano Orquera, Josh Sole and Carlo Del Fava.
Munster should still have more than enough to see off the Italian’s challenge, and solidify their position behind Leinster in the league. With just 6 PRO12 fixtures left until the play-offs, a win would put McGahan’s side 6 points clear of the Ospreys, and looking good for a home draw. Verdict: Munster by 10-15 points.
Aironi: 15 Tito Tebaldi, 14 Riccardo Pavan, 13 Matteo Pratichetti, 12 Gabriel Pizarro, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Tyson Keats, 8 Josh Sole, 7 Nicola Cattina, 6 Filippo Ferrarini, 5 Carlo Del Fava, 4 George Biagi, 3 Lorenzo Romano, 2 Roberto Santamaria, 1 Matias Aguero.
Subs: 16 Fabio Ongaro, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Salvatore Perugini, 19 Filippo Cazzola, 20 Emiliano Caffini, 21 Giorgio Bronzini, 22 Naas Olivier, 23 Alberto Benettin.
Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Denis Hurley, 13 Save Tokula, 12 Lifeimi Mafi, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Scott Deasy, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 Paddy Butler, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 Dave O’Callaghan, 5 Mick O’Driscoll (capt), 4 Billy Holland, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Mike Sherry, 1 Wian du Preez.
Subs: 16 Denis Fogarty, 17 Marcus Horan, 18 BJ Botha, 19 Ian Nagle, 20 David Wallace, 21 Cathal Sheridan, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Luke O’Dea.
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Photo courtesy: Ivan O’Riordan.