With Ronan O’Gara, Keith Earls, Wian du Preez, Niall Ronan and James Coughlan still hors de combat and Doug Howlett, James Downey and Paul O’Connell rested, there’s a distinctly fresh faced look to the side Rob Penney sends out for tonight’s (7.45) RaboDirect PRO12 Thomond Park Stadium clash with Zebre.
The boy brigade is led by just turned twenty year old JJ Hanrahan making his first start for the side in a backline that if you exclude the experienced Casey Laulala has an average age of 23.
Up front that theme is continued with a front row of Dave Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry and Stephen Archer who between them have accumulated almost the same number of caps as the five outside backs while the average age of the backrow – Dave O'Callaghan, Paddy Butler, Peter O'Mahony – is just 22 years.
It all makes for very positive reading and particularly so when you consider that six of the match day squad are ear-marked for national duty in November with at least two more likely to join them. However, be that as it may the first order of business for them is Zebre and getting their RaboDirect PRO12 challenge back on track after two defeats on the bounce.
Those reversals came in against European champions in Dublin and League champions in Swansea and in the circumstances might be considered to some degree understandable though never acceptable to the Munster mindset.
This evening there's only one result that will suffice and on top of that, the way it's fashioned will also come under scrutiny. But there's been enough evidence to show that this group are capable of accepting the responsibility vested in them and that they can turn this into a Halloween the Italians will want to forget.
Munster: F Jones; L O'Dea, C Laulala, JJ Hanrahan, S Zebo; I Keatley, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, S Archer; Donncha O'Callaghan, D Ryan; Dave O'Callaghan, P O'Mahony (capt), P Butler. Replacements: D Varley, M Horan, BJ Botha, B Holland, T O'Donnell; C Murray, J Murphy, D Hurley.
Zebre: R Trevisan; D Odiete, G Garcia (capt), D Halangahu, M Pratichetti; A Chiesa, L Martinelli; S Perugini, A Mancini, L Redolfini; E Caffini, J Sole; F Ferrarini, F Cristiano, A van Schalkwyk. Replacements: D Gaizzon, M Aguero, D Ryan, F Cazzola, N Belardo, T Tebaldi, L Orquera, L Sarto.
Referee: Neil Hennessy (Wales)