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Magners Preview: Aironi Rugby v Leinster

Magners Preview: Aironi Rugby v Leinster

Leinster are off to Viadana for the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, but they have serious business to attend to at Stadio Zaffanella as they try to maintain their push for a home Magners League semi-final.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, April 23

AIRONI RUGBY (12th) v LEINSTER (3rd), Stadio Zaffanella, 2.30pm local time/1.30pm Irish time

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Team News: Brian O’Driscoll leads a Leinster team which has a blend of youth and experience for this weekend’s trip to Italy.

The returning O’Driscoll partners Eoin O’Malley at centre with Fergus McFadden reverting to the right wing.

In all, head coach Joe Schmidt has made ten changes in personnel to the side that started last weekend’s derby win over Ulster.

The back-three is completed by full-back David Kearney, who will make his 11th appearance of the season, and Luke Fitzgerald.

Eoin Reddan links up at half-back with the 22-year-old Ian Madigan, who is set for his 15th appearance of the current campaign.

In the pack, Cian Healy and Mike Ross form an all-changed front row alongside hooker Jason Harris-Wright, with Scotland international Nathan Hines joining Devin Toner in the second row.

Shane Jennings, Sean O’Brien and Rhys Ruddock make up an all-Ireland back row. O’Brien and Ruddock come in for Jamie Heaslip and Kevin McLaughlin respectively.

Shane Horgan, who scored two tries in the 34-26 victory over Ulster, is one of four Ireland internationals on the replacements bench alongside Isaac Boss, Leo Cullen and Jonathan Sexton.

It will be Ruddock’s first start since last month’s Magners League win over the Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade.

“There’s a lot of competition for places. Kevin is playing well, Dominic Ryan is playing well, so that has to spur to me on,” said the young flanker.

“I’ve had plenty of opportunities and I need to take them and start playing well. I think I played better earlier in the season, so I need to get back to that form and try and get the jersey.

“I had a good run of games (early in season) and then with the internationals I had quite a few games but my form sort of dipped around that period.

“I’ve also been feeling sick for the last few weeks so now I’m better there’s no excuses. I’ve got the opportunity and I have to take it.”

Meanwhile, after losing to Edinburgh last Friday, Aironi return home for the last two matches of the maiden season against Leinster and the Ospreys.

Aironi head coach Rowland Phillips made seven changes to the starting line-up. Horacio San Martin comes in at full-back, replacing Giulio Rubini who injured his left knee at Murrayfield.

Kaine Robertson and Danwel Demas start on the wings once again, and Gabriel Pizarro links up with Gilberto Pavan at centre. At scrum half, top scorers Tito Tebaldi returns alongside New Zealander James Marshall.

Italian international Josh Sole is available again after completing a one-week suspension. He joins Gareth Krause and Nick Williams, who have been amongst the tries recently, in a strong back row combination.

Young lock Joshua Furno has been preferred to the benched Quintin Geldenhuys, with Marco Bortolami skippering the side.

Fabio Staibano and Alberto de Marchi also replace Ulises Gamboa and Salvatore Perugini in the front row, with Fabio Ongaro the starting hooker.

AIRONI RUGBY: Horacio San Martin; Kaine Robertson, Gilberto Pavan, Gabriel Pizarro, Danwel Demas; James Marshall, Tito Tebaldi; Alberto de Marchi, Fabio Ongaro, Fabio Staibano, Joshua Furno, Marco Bortolami (capt), Josh Sole, Gareth Krause, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Luigi Ferraro, Salvatore Perugini, Luca Redolfini, Quintin Geldenhuys, Nicola Cattina, Pablo Canavosio, Matteo Pratichetti, Riccardo Bocchino.

LEINSTER: David Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Eoin O’Malley, Luke Fitzgerald; Ian Madigan, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Jason Harris-Wright, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Nathan Hines, Rhys Ruddock, Shane Jennings, Sean O’Brien.

Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Heinke van der Merwe, Stan Wright, Leo Cullen, Dominic Ryan, Isaac Boss, Jonathan Sexton, Shane Horgan.

Referee: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Matteo Liperini, Claudio Blessano (both Italy)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Aironi Rugby to win: 5/1; Draw: 25/1; Leinster to win: 1/9

Pre-Match Quotes: Shane Jennings (Leinster) – “The great thing about the Magners League this year is the huge competition amongst all the teams. You only have to look at the top half of the league table to prove that.

“Aironi are a new team, yes, but they are also skilful and physical, so we are under no illusion that they will ask questions of us. They have huge men in their pack and a classy back-line who can punish you with the ball in hand.

“Nick Williams is a quality ball carrier and if we’re not sharp in our set piece then they can hurt us. Certainly nobody in the Leinster camp is thinking of this as an easy day.

“Our aim this week is the same as it would be for any other game – to get a lot of hard work done on the training field and in our analysis and to get our preparation work done on our opponents. Nothing changes in that regard from week to week for us.

“It’s a new departure for Leinster this weekend, but things like the warmer climate or the extra travel don’t come into the equation. Most of the lads prefer to play Friday night or Saturday games because it helps you get into a routine.

“So, okay it’s an extra couple of hours travelling, but we have worked very hard to get into this position and we don’t want to let up at this stage. It’s exciting. We’re looking to get a home semi-final, but there’s a lot of work to do.”

Marco Bortolami (Aironi Rugby) – “Playing Leinster and the Ospreys in our final two games will be tough. They are both still aiming to reach the play-offs. But playing at home, we must play right to the final whistle and hope we can upset them.

“Even if Leinster are resting some internationals ahead of their Heineken Cup semi-final, they will still field a high quality team with great players who play very good rugby as a unit. We must use all of our strengths to put it up to Leinster.

“That game in Dublin in February gave us a lot of confidence, but it was also one of our top performances. It will not be easy to repeat it, but we are ready to do it again.

“It will be vital for us to defend well, especially in the first two or three phases, otherwise it becomes very difficult to stop their quality backs.”

Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Aironi Rugby – Points: Tito Tebaldi 54; Tries: Nick Williams 4; Leinster – Points: Isa Nacewa 142; Tries: Shane Horgan 7


Thursday, February 10, 2011 – Leinster 21 Aironi Rugby 16, the RDS


– The two teams have met just once before: at the RDS in round 14 when despite losing, Aironi became one of only four visiting teams to come away from Dublin with a losing bonus point this season

– Aironi’s only Magners League victory so far came when the last Irish side visited Stadio Zaffanella – Connacht in round 18

– Leinster gained their first Magners League try bonus point since New Year’s Day during their 34-26 victory over Ulster at the RDS last Saturday

– The Leinstermen have lost on two of their last three visits to Italy