Munster Rugby look to lower colours of Benetton in crunch PRO14 tie

Colm Kinsella

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Colm Kinsella

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Munster Rugby look to lower colours of Benetton in crunch PRO14 tie

Tommaso Allan of Benetton kicks a conversion to draw the game against Leinster last weekend. Benetton host Munster this Friday night at 7pm - Live on Eir Sport. Below: Joey Carbery has been ruled out

MUNSTER’S bid to finish top of Conference ‘A’ of the Guinness PRO14 reaches a critical stage this Friday when Johann van Graan’s side tackle in-form Benetton Rugby at Stadio di Monigo, 7pm Irish time.

Munster currently sit in second place in their Conference, three points behind pacesetter Glasgow with now just two series of regular season fixtures to go.

Glasgow are in Dublin this weekend for a crucial meeting with Conference B pacesetters Leinster.

Following Friday night’s game, Munster final regular season fixture in the Pro14 is a home tie against Connacht on Saturday, April 27.

Munster’s ‘Italian Job’ on Friday is the province’s final outing before their glamour Heineken Champions Cup semi-final clash with Saracens at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry on Saturday, April 19, 3pm.

Munster look set to be without Ireland out-half Joey Carbery for the trip to Coventry due to an on-going hamstring injury.

While Munster have won their last twenty-one fixtures against Italian opponents since September 2013, Benetton are strongly in contention for a play-off place in this season’s PRO14 and secured an impressive draw with Leinster at the RDS last weekend.

Head coach Johann van Graan travels to Italy in the wake of signing a new two deal with Muster earlier this week.

“I’m very lucky Munster want me to stay on for another few years. Look, you’ve always got to look at the future and my family and I have settled in very well in Limerick and we’ve enjoyed Munster.

“I know this is professional sport and my contract was due at the end of next season, when Munster Rugby said they wanted to keep me here and I gave it a lot of thought with my family and delighted to stay.

“The very first day I said this is about Munster, not about me so I’d like to keep it that way and I’m very fortunate to work with incredible players and incredible management staff and everyone working at Munster. The Munster supporters have been very good to me and it’s great to be associated with Munster Rugby.”

With head coach van Graan committing his future to Munster until June 2022, the focus switches to the futures of the provinces assistant coaches Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones.

The two former Munster players, who have made an impressive transitions to the world of coaching, are out of contract at the end of this season.

South African JP Ferreira is contracted to work as the province's Defence Coach until June 2020.

Van Graan said: “I think we have worked very well together, Jerry and JP and Felix and I. That will be one of the next steps in the process. As soon as we have got something to announce we will do that.

“We’re also looking forward to the future, we need to keep improving and we need to keep evolving. Hopefully in the next few years we can keep continuity number one, but also bring in people that can add value.

“I think it’s one of the things of professional sport, you can’t keep in the same spot too long because other teams will pass you. You have just got to keep moving forward.” 

Meanwhile, six players involved in the Munster A side's 38-19 win over New England Free Jacks in the US on Saturday returned to the province this week ahead of the trip to Italy to face Benetton.