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GUINNESS PRO12 Preview: Zebre v Leinster

GUINNESS PRO12 Preview: Zebre v Leinster

Leinster have racked up four bonus point wins to date against Zebre, and a fifth such result in Parma on Saturday would be the ideal response to their disappointing derby defeat to Munster.

GUINNESS PRO12: Saturday, October 11

ZEBRE (11th) v LEINSTER (7th), Stadio XXV Aprile, 4pm local time/3pm Irish time (live Nuvolari TV)

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Team News: A number of players will make a welcome return to competitive action on Saturday when Leinster line out against Zebre at the Stadio XXV Aprile in Parma.

Hooker Richardt Strauss will make his 95th appearance for Leinster as he completes his comeback nearly five months to the day of his last appearance against Edinburgh in the PRO12.

A serious hamstring injury, which needed surgery, put paid to his season but he makes a return in a front row that also includes Jack McGrath and Martin Moore, who have also recovered from respective calf and shoulder niggles.

In the second row, Mike McCarthy is partnered by Kane Douglas who makes his first appearance away from home for Leinster. Devin Toner starts from the bench.

With an average age of 22, the back row has a young feel to it with 23-year-old Ireland international Rhys Ruddock very much the veteran with 85 provincial caps and four tries to his name.

He is joined by Jack Conan, who makes his second start for the province, and Academy player Josh van der Flier (pictured below), who makes his full Leinster debut having started against Northampton Saints and Ulster in pre-season.

Rob Kearney will captain the team from full-back with the province’s September Player of the Month, Darragh Fanning, continuing on the left wing with Zane Kirchner making a welcome return on the right – this is the South Africa’s first game back since picking up an injury against the Scarlets last month.

Isaac Boss and Ian Madigan start together at half-back, while Noel Reid and Gordon D’Arcy will pair up in the centre. This will be Reid’s first appearance since going off after less than a minute in the round 1 fixture away to Glasgow Warriors.

Meanwhile, Zebre boss Andrea Cavinato has made three changes in personnel to the side that lost 15-14 at home to the Ospreys last time out.

Centre Tommaso Iannone will make his seasonal debut for the Italians, replacing Giulio Bisegni, with Edoardo Padovani partnering Guglielmo Palazzani at half-back.

Quintin Geldenhuys returns in the second row where he links up again with captain Marco Bortolami, the 107-times capped Italian international.

The 13 Zebre players named in the Italy squad for the November internationals are all included, with ten of them starting against Leinster.

ZEBRE: David Odiete; Giulio Toniolatti, Tommaso Iannone, Gonzalo Garcia, Leonardo Sarto; Edoardo Padovani, Guglielmo Palazzani; Matias Aguero, Andrea Manici, Dario Chistolini, Quintin Geldenhuys, Marco Bortolami (capt), Mauro Bergamasco, Filippo Cristiano, Samuela Vunisa.

Replacements: Oliviero Fabiani, Andrea Lovotti, Luciano Leibson, Andries Ferreira, Valerio Bernabò, Luciano Orquera, Kelly Haimona, George Biagi.

LEINSTER: Rob Kearney (capt); Zane Kirchner, Gordon D’Arcy, Noel Reid, Darragh Fanning; Ian Madigan, Isaac Boss; Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss, Martin Moore, Mike McCarthy, Kane Douglas, Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Ed Byrne, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, Jamie Heaslip, Luke McGrath, Jimmy Gopperth, Mick McGrath.

Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Matteo Liperini, Francesco Russo (both Italy)
Television Match Official: Carlo Damasco (Italy)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Zebre to win: 11/4; Draw: 25/1; Leinster to win: 1/4

Pre-Match Quotes: Matt O’Connor (Leinster) – “Zebre are very combative all around the park. They’ve got a good set piece and forward pack that can hurt you.

“If you allow them get good field position then they can definitely punish you. I think they had 12 blokes named in the Italian squad this week so there’s plenty of international quality there.

“They’ve proven that they can be tough to beat at home and they’ll be looking to stake a claim for the national side so I’m sure they’ll be hugely motivated.

“We approach every game in isolation and that’s the reality of it. We’re certainly looking to get the win this weekend that would give us momentum heading into Europe.

“There’s definitely been an extra edge to training this week, you’d expect that. The guys were really, really disappointed (with the defeat to Munster) and that was reflected in the intensity of this week’s training. I’m expecting a reaction from them this weekend.

“We have to react to it and quickly fix the things that we did wrong. If we do, then I’m sure we can put in a quality performance.”

Jack Conan (Leinster) – “We had two really tough games against them (Zebre) last year. We were ahead at half time in both games but not by much and it was really only in the last quarter that we managed to put a few tries on the board.

“Also they have their full complement of Italian internationals available so we are playing them at their strongest and with form. They have beaten one Irish side over there (Ulster) this season and they will see us and perhaps our form and see an opportunity.

“There is no specific target (for me personally), I just need to focus on doing as best I can week in, week out, day in, day out.

“I want to play as much as possible, of course I do. But I also realise that this year has to be about developing further and two months into it, I’m loving it.”

Top Scorers – 2014/15 GUINNESS PRO12: Zebre – Points: Kelly Haimona 22; Tries: Samuela Vunisa 2; Leinster – Points: Ian Madigan 64; Tries: Rob Kearney, Ian Madigan 2 each


Saturday, December 1, 2012 – Leinster 37 Zebre 7, the RDS
Sunday, April 21, 2013 – Zebre 22 Leinster 41, Stadio Citta del Tricolore
Sunday, February 9, 2014 – Zebre 8 Leinster 31, Stadio XXV Aprile
Friday, March 21, 2014 – Leinster 27 Zebre 0, the RDS


– Zebre play a third successive home game at the Stadio Aprile XXV, having beaten Ulster there in round 4 and lost by the narrowest of margins to the Ospreys last weekend

– The Italians have lost just twice in their last seven fixtures in Parma

– Leinster tripped up 34-23 to Munster at the Aviva Stadium last Saturday but have not lost back-to-back PRO12 encounters in the same season since 2010/11

– The Leinstermen have lost only one of their 16 previous clashes with Italian opponents in the league: 29-13 in Treviso in September 2010

– Leinster have won all four previous matches against Zebre, gaining a try-scoring bonus point on each occasion and preventing Zebre from gaining even a single league point