2023 Benetton Rugby vs Munster Rugby

United Rugby Championship Game Of The Week: Benetton Vs. Munster

United Rugby Championship Game Of The Week: Benetton Vs. Munster

United Rugby Championship Game Of The Week features Munster tackle Benetton on FloRugby.

Jan 25, 2023 by Philip Bendon
United Rugby Championship Game Of The Week: Benetton Vs. Munster

The United Rugby Championship returns to our screens this week following the conclusion of the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup pool stages. 

In a resounding endorsement for the quality of the URC, all eight of the league’s Champions Cup sides qualified for the knock-out stages. 

In the Challenge Cup, seven of the URC sides qualified for the playoffs highlighting the depth of quality in the league. 

This week’s FloRugby game of the week features two sides who have qualified for European playoff action as an ascending Munster side travel to Treviso to take on an in-form Benetton

Munster comes into the clash on the back of six victories in their last nine outings, with their three losses coming at the hands of European superpowers Toulouse (twice) and Leinster. 

All three losses were exceptionally close and highlighted just how far Munster has come under their new Graham Rowntree-led coaching staff. 

Starting the season in a rather dismal fashion, Munster looked like a shell of their former selves. The situation had gotten so dire that the prospect of missing out on the playoffs in both the Champions Cup and URC was very real. 

Pinpointing an exact turning point is often difficult, however, in the case of this Munster team their victory over a South Africa A side in Cork proved to be the catalyst for their uptick in fortunes. 

Building on Ireland’s hard-fought victory over the Springboks, Munster put the powerful South African second-string side to the sword with relative ease. 

Most pleasing was the emergence of several young stars who have since gone on to form the backbone of the Munster renaissance. 

Prior to the clash players such as Paddy Paterson, Antoine Frisch, and Edwin Edogbo were little-known commodities. 

Yet when they hit the famous Pairc Ui Chaoimh pitch they along with their more experienced teammates transformed from a side in transition to a side on the precipice of being title contenders. 

Frisch in particular has been a revelation and looks every bit the International prospect that Munster and Irish Rugby had hoped for when they signed him from Premiership outfit Bristol Bears. 

One asset that Rowntree would not have thought he would have had available at this point in the season was experienced flyhalf Joey Carbery. 

The 27-year-old was a shock omission from Ireland’s Six Nations squad and is therefore available for selection which is good news for Rowntree who has seen his other two flyhalves Ben Healy (Scotland) and Jack Crowley (Ireland) called up for International duty.

Carbery’s presence in a side that will be absent of its international stars will ensure a continuity that could prove crucial. From a player perspective, Carbery knows only too well the toll international rugby takes and remains only an injury away from an international call-up thus heightening the urgency for him to continue his development in the new Munster game plan.

Speaking on Carbery’s omission from the Ireland set-up, Rowntree said, 

"He was disappointed last week, rightly so. He's been exceptional at training; he drives the group and he'll learn from that. It will strengthen his game; I've got nothing but praise for the kid. I like working with him. He's around this week as well, it's handy for us going to Treviso. I can't speak highly enough about how he's dealt with that disappointment and that's when you learn. It's a moment you have to get through and he will get through it." Rowntree concluded. 

Benetton on the other hand had a rather different season trajectory to Munster having come out of the gates hot. 

Winning three of four to open the season, the wheels started to come off for Marco Bortolami’s side, falling to three heavy defeats on the bounce from rounds five to seven. 

Since then, however, it has been seven wins from nine for the Italians which has seen them finish second in their Challenge Cup pool and has them in sixth on the URC table. 

During this run, Benetton has scored an average of 30 points per game highlighting just how far their attacking game has come since last season. 

Key to the Benetton renaissance has been Argentine playmaker Tomas Albornoz who has not only kicked effectively for goal but pulled the attacking strings beautifully. 

Often times runs a deep looping play where Albornoz touches the ball twice, first by passing to the player directly outside him before getting it back and throwing a long ball. 

The Argentine has used his pace and accurate passing game to deadly effect in these set plays so far this season. In fact, this move was at the forefront of his side’s opening score against French Top14 powerhouse Stade Francais. 

Elsewhere Benetton’s pack is immensely impressive this season and appears to have found a real gem in backrow Lorenzo Cannone. 

Scoring a try on his international debut in Italy’s Autumn Nations Series victory over Samoa, Cannone announced himself as the next in line of exceptional Italian backrowers. 

Cannone would then go on to put in a truly world-class performance in Italy’s historic win over the Wallabies a week after his making debut. Carrying his international form with him back to his club, he has scored six tries thus far for Benetton. 

His battle with the Munster backrow which is likely to feature youngsters Alex Kendellen and John Hodnett will make for a mouth-watering subplot. 

Predicting the outcome of this clash is a tough challenge given the absence of the majority of both side’s front-line international players as they prepare for the Six Nations.

Both sides are clearly in red-hot form yet looking at the strength of their respective schedules Munster definitely faced tougher competition. 

This tough run should have them battle-hardened and ready for yet another challenging away fixture. In addition to this, Carbery’s drive to prove the Irish selectors wrong and the return of several big forwards who have been out injured, Munster should have enough to get the job done. 

Prediction: Munster by 5.

When is the Benetton Vs. Munster match?

January 28, 2023, at 8:30 am CST

Written by Philip Bendon