With a number of their Ireland internationals back in the team, Leinster are odds on favourites to beat Benetton Treviso and record their second successive win in the RaboDirect PRO12.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, September 15
BENETTON TREVISO (10th) v LEINSTER (9th), Stadio di Monigo, 7.05pm local time/6.05pm Irish time (live www.TG4.tv / Sport Italia 2)
Team News: The Leinster team to face Benetton Treviso in Saturday night’s RaboDirect PRO12 clash at the Stadio di Monigo has been named.
The province can welcome back a number of their Ireland internationals for the first time following their summer break.
Amongst the returning players is Jamie Heaslip who captains the team and the number 8 forms an all-Ireland international back row with Shane Jennings and Kevin McLaughlin.
Devin Toner will become the 20th Leinster player to reach the 100-cap milestone, linking up with Damian Browne in the second row.
Heinke van der Merwe, a second half replacement in the home win over the Dragons last weekend, is joined in the front row by hooker Richardt Strauss and Ireland tighthead prop Mike Ross.
In the back-line Fergus McFadden, who is set to make his 75th Leinster appearance, partners Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll at centre.
Eoin Reddan will combine at half-back with Jonathan Sexton, with Ian Madigan, fresh from an 18-point haul against the Dragons, shifting to full-back.
Both Fionn Carr and Andrew Conway continue on the wings, while the province’s regular captain Leo Cullen is one of three Ireland internationals included on the bench alongside Isa Nacewa.
Meanwhile, Benetton Treviso boss Franco Smith has made wholesale changes to the team that started last weekend’s 19-6 loss away to Munster.
Luke McLean, Tommaso Benvenuti and Tobie Botes return to the back-line with Botes’ inclusion at scrum half meaning Edoardo Gori shifts to the right wing.
Flanker Simon Favaro is the only forward who has retained his starting berth from the round 2 tie. He is joined in the back row by Alessandro Zanni and number 8 Robert Barbieri.
The Italians’ front row is comprised of Alberto de Marchi, Leonardo Ghiraldini and Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, while Corniel van Zyl will captain the hosts from the second row alongside Francesco Minto.
BENETTON TREVISO: Luke McLean; Edoardo Gori, Tommaso Benvenuti, Alberto Sgarbi, Ludovico Nitoglia; Alberto di Bernardo, Tobie Botes; Alberto de Marchi, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, Francesco Minto, Corniel van Zyl (capt), Simone Favaro, Alessandro Zanni, Robert Barbieri.
Replacements: Franco Sbaraglini, Michele Rizzo, Lorenzo Cittadini, Valerio Bernabò, Dean Budd, Marco Filippucci, Fabio Semenzato, Kris Burton.
LEINSTER: Ian Madigan; Andrew Conway, Brian O’Driscoll, Fergus McFadden, Fionn Carr; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Heinke van der Merwe, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Damian Browne, Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip (capt).
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Jamie Hagan, Leo Cullen, Jordi Murphy, John Cooney, Noel Reid, Isa Nacewa.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Carlo Damasco, Stefano Traversi (both Italy)
Television Match Official: Stefano Marrama (Italy)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Benetton Treviso to win: 11/4; Draw: 22/1; Leinster to win: 3/10
Pre-Match Quotes: Eoin Reddan (Leinster) – “There never is an easy way back in. Even if it’s a pre-season friendly, the coach is still watching you. You can’t go and fall off tackles or whatever, so it’s going to be full on.
“It will be a big night in terms of physicality and we’ll have to bring it. We did a lot of that physical work this week, so hopefully we’ll be ready to go.
“Hopefully the scrum will do well, but if the scrum’s under pressure it makes my job harder to get the ball out of there.
“Hopefully the boys will put in a big performance and we won’t be under too much pressure in the scrum. Treviso have a very big pack, so we’ll have to be very physical and direct to counteract that.
“They had a good start to the season by beating Ospreys and past results have shown at this time of year they’re very good at home, so it’ll be a tough game, very physical for all of us going back in.”
Top Scorers – 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Benetton Treviso – Points: Kris Burton 12; Tries: -; Leinster – Points: Ian Madigan 33; Tries: Devin Toner, Ian Madigan, Andrew Conway, Ben Marshall, Shane Jennings, Fionn Carr, Brendan Macken 1 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, September 18, 2010 – Benetton Treviso 29 Leinster 13, Stadio di Monigo
Friday, February 25, 2011 – Leinster 30 Benetton Treviso 5, the RDS
Saturday, November 26, 2011 – Benetton Treviso 20 Leinster 30, Stadio di Monigo
Thursday, February 9, 2012 – Leinster 42 Benetton Treviso 8, the RDS
– Benetton Treviso won the opening game of the season against the Ospreys, but tripped up to Munster in round 2 of the RaboDirect PRO12
– Benetton Treviso have lost their last five encounters with the Irish provinces
– Leinster got back to winning ways with a 45-25 victory over the Newport Gwent Dragons at the RDS last Saturday
– The Leinstermen have won their last seven fixtures with Italian opponents
– Benetton Treviso’s only previous victory over Leinster was a 29-13 triumph at Stadio di Monigo back in September 2010