Leinster come up against a Benetton Treviso team at a low ebb, lying bottom of the table and still winless after seven rounds, as the province look to pick up the points and draw closer to the GUINNESS PRO12’s top four.
GUINNESS PRO12: Sunday, November 23
BENETTON TREVISO (12th) v LEINSTER (7th), Stadio di Monigo, 3.30pm local time/2.30pm Irish time (live Sky Sports 2 HD/Nuvolari TV)
Team News: Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor has named his team to face Benetton Treviso in the GUINNESS PRO12, with two changes from the round 7 win over Edinburgh.
O’Connor welcomes back, for the first time this season, Jordi Murphy to the pack and Dave Kearney to the left wing after shoulder and knee injuries respectively had sidelined the pair for the last few months.
Murphy (pictured below) last played competitive rugby in June during the Ireland summer tour to Argentina, while Kearney has been sidelined since the PRO12 semi-final win over Ulster in May.
With Kearney returning to the left wing and Darragh Fanning continuing on the right, this means a shift to outside centre for Luke Fitzgerald. It is his first start at centre for Leinster since last November’s away victory over the Newport Gwent Dragons.
Inside Fitzgerald will be Noel Reid, while Luke McGrath and Jimmy Gopperth have been retained as the starting half-backs and Zane Kirchner continues at full-back.
Richardt Strauss starts at hooker having been a try scorer for Ireland in last weekend’s GUINNESS Series win over Georgia, while props Michael Bent and Tadhg Furlong start at loosehead and tighthead respectively.
Tom Denton and Kane Douglas are once again selected in the second row. Kevin McLaughlin once again captains the side from the back row, with the fit-again Murphy at openside flanker and Jack Conan stationed at number 8.
Among the replacements is returning prop Jamie Hagan who arrived during the week on a short-term loan deal from London Irish.
Meanwhile, former Leinster back rower Leo Auva’a has been named among the replacements for Benetton Treviso’s round 8 date with the reigning league champions.
There are six changes in personnel to the Treviso side that lost 17-9 away to Glasgow Warriors last time out, with a number of the switches due to players being away with the Italian national squad.
Andrea Pratichetti replaces Simone Ragusi on the right wing and Sam Christie moves to inside centre with Joe Carlisle returning in the number 10 jersey. Left winger Ludovico Nitoglia will be making his 100th appearance for the club.
The fit-again Dean Budd forms an all-new back row with fellow flanker Marco Barbini and number 8 Mat Luamanu, while Rupert Harden, formerly of Gloucester, also comes in at tighthead prop for Australian Salesi Manu.
BENETTON TREVISO: Jayden Hayward; Andrea Pratichetti, Enrico Bacchin, Sam Christie, Ludovico Nitoglia; Joe Carlisle, Alberto Lucchese; Matteo Zanusso, Davide Giazzon, Rupert Harden, Tomas Vallejos, Corniel van Zyl (capt), Marco Barbini, Dean Budd, Mat Luamanu.
Replacements: Amar Kudin, Josè Novak, Romulo Acosta, Marco Fuser, Meyer Swanepoel, Leo Auva’a, Ruggero Trevisan, James Ambrosini.
LEINSTER: Zane Kirchner; Darragh Fanning, Luke Fitzgerald, Noel Reid, Dave Kearney; Jimmy Gopperth, Luke McGrath; Michael Bent, Richardt Strauss, Tadhg Furlong, Tom Denton, Kane Douglas, Kevin McLaughlin (capt), Jordi Murphy, Jack Conan.
Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Peter Dooley, Jamie Hagan, Ben Marshall, Dominic Ryan, Isaac Boss, Cathal Marsh, Brendan Macken.
Assistant Referees: Claudio Blessano, Andrea Spadoni (both Italy)
Television Match Official: Mauro Dordolo (Italy)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Benetton Treviso to win: 5/1; Draw: 30/1; Leinster to win: 1/9
Pre-Match Quotes: Matt O’Connor (Leinster) – “Treviso will be missing a handful of guys who are away with Italy but it’s an awkward place to go. We got away with a one-point win there last year and we had to work for every single point of that.
“We’ll be making sure that we put out a quality performance. That’s the key for us. If we can continue to build on the last few good performances in the league and get a good result over there, it probably puts us in a good place leading into the Ospreys and Europe.
“That’s the focus for the last couple of weeks – making sure that we keep working hard and growing our game to put out a quality performance and get the points that we need.
“The next two months could be season-defining. They will determine where we are in the league and where we are in Europe.
“The squad is in a good place. Hopefully, we can build on the momentum we’ve created over the last couple of games. The guys are really excited about getting an opportunity to play in the Test windows. For a lot of the group, it is an opportunity to play some rugby and stick their hands up for selection.”
Top Scorers – 2014/15 GUINNESS PRO12: Benetton Treviso – Points: Joe Carlisle 29; Tries: Michele Campagnaro 2; Leinster – Points: Ian Madigan 77; Tries: Ian Madigan, Dominic Ryan 3 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, November 26, 2011 – Benetton Treviso 20 Leinster 30, Stadio di Monigo
Thursday, February 9, 2012 – Leinster 42 Benetton Treviso 8, the RDS
Saturday, September 15, 2012 – Benetton Treviso 18 Leinster 19, Stadio di Monigo
Saturday, February 16, 2013 – Leinster 40 Benetton Treviso 5, the RDS
Sunday, November 24, 2013 – Benetton Treviso 20 Leinster 21, Stadio di Monigo
Friday, April 18, 2014 – Leinster 62 Benetton Treviso 7, the RDS
– Benetton Treviso have lost their last dozen matches in all competitions since their 45-27 victory at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons in the PRO12 on April 12
– Treviso’s most recent win over an Irish province came in October 2013 at home to Connacht, since then they have lost all nine such encounters and have scored just two tries in their last eight
– Leinster have won their last four fixtures in all competitions since tripping up against Munster at the Aviva Stadium in round 5 of the GUINNESS PRO12
– The Leinstermen have won their last 16 matches against Italian opponents in the PRO12 with their only such defeat being in Treviso in September 2010
– The two sides have met on ten previous occasions in all competitions with Treviso’s lone victory being 29-13 at the Stadio di Monigo in the PRO12 in September 2010