Leinster face into their second November outing without their Ireland-tied players, as they tackle a Benetton Treviso team that has lost just one league match at home in the last 12 months.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Sunday, November 24
BENETTON TREVISO (10th) v LEINSTER (5th), Stadio di Monigo, 3pm local time/2pm Irish time (live Sport Mediaset/deferred coverage TG4 (5pm))
Team News: The Leinster team to face Benetton Treviso in Sunday afternoon’s RaboDirect PRO12 match at the Stadio di Monigo has been named.
Jimmy Gopperth will line up alongside John Cooney at half-back with Emerging Ireland scrum half Cooney set to make his 25th appearance in Leinster colours.
Noel Reid partners Brendan Macken in the centre, with the experience of Australian international Lote Tuqiri joining St. Mary’s College duo Darragh Fanning and Darren Hudson in the back-three.
Up front, Ireland prop Michael Bent starts in a front row which includes Aaron Dundon – a try scorer in the province’s 23-19 victory away to the Dragons last time out – and Martin Moore who makes his 15th appearance for Leinster.
Tom Denton partners Quinn Roux in the second row with Rhys Ruddock, who captains the side in Shane Jennings’ absence, joining Dominic Ryan and number 8 Leo Auva’a in the back row. Jennings is the 24th man for Ireland’s clash with New Zealand.
Ireland scrum half Eoin Reddan is named on a young replacements bench which includes seven products of the province’s Academy.
Speaking ahead of the trip to Italy, Cooney said: “We only won (over in Treviso) last year with a drop goal on the last play from Johnny (Sexton). Munster lost away there. It’s a pretty tough fixture. They’re always good at home. I think it will be a difficult game this week.
“I was happy to get the 80 minutes against the Dragons recently. Some things just through match practice I can pick up on and improve.
“There were just a few things towards the end where I could have been a bit smarter. But through game-time and matches you’re going to pick up on that, you’re going to learn these small things. It’s good to get a look-in.
“With Isaac (Boss) and Eoin, they’re both obviously very well qualified – they’ve been playing for so many years. In kicking and passing practice with them they’d always be giving me pointers.
“Even just watching them in training, the pace they put on the ball and some of the physicality they bring as well, these are all things I love to watch and try and pick up and bring into my game as well.”
Meanwhile, former Leinster player Mat Berquist will feature at out-half for Benetton Treviso, forming a half-back partnership with Fabio Semenzato who is making his 50th league appearance.
Head coach Franco Smith has made seven personnel changes to the side that lost 17-13 away to the Cardiff Blues last time out, with Italian internationals Antonio Pavanello, Alberto di Bernardo and Alberto Sgarbi also returning for bench duty.
Andrea Pratichetti moves to the centre where he partners Christian Loamanu and scrum half Semenzato and winger Angelo Esposito are the other back-line alterations.
Up front, prop Alberto de Marchi, fit-again hooker Franco Sbaraglini, lock and captain Corniel van Zyl and number 8 Marco Filippucci have been drafted into the starting line-up.
BENETTON TREVISO: Brendan Williams; Ludovico Nitoglia, Andrea Pratichetti, Christian Loamanu, Angelo Esposito; Mat Berquist, Fabio Semenzato; Alberto de Marchi, Franco Sbaraglini, Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, Marco Fuser, Corniel van Zyl (capt), Manoa Vosawai, Dean Budd, Marco Filippucci.
Replacements: Enrico Ceccato, Matteo Muccignat, Pedro di Santo, Antonio Pavanello, Filippo Giusti, Alberto Sgarbi, James Ambrosini, Alberto di Bernardo.
LEINSTER: Darren Hudson; Lote Tuqiri, Brendan Macken, Noel Reid, Darragh Fanning; Jimmy Gopperth, John Cooney; Michael Bent, Aaron Dundon, Martin Moore, Tom Denton, Quinn Roux, Rhys Ruddock (capt), Dominic Ryan, Leo Auva’a.
Replacements: James Tracy, Jack O’Connell, Tadhg Furlong, Ben Marshall, Jordi Murphy, Eoin Reddan, Cathal Marsh, Collie O’Shea.
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Elia Rizzo, Giorgio Sgardiolo (both Italy)
Television Match Official: Mauro Dordolo (Italy)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Benetton Treviso to win: 13/10; Draw: 20/1; Leinster to win: 8/13
Pre-Match Quotes: Rhys Ruddock (Leinster) – “(The break) was a little frustrating, you just want to keep playing. Definitely for a lot of us, we would have liked another game.
“But now looking at it, it’s nice because we had a two-week break to prepare for what is a big game for us. What seemed a little frustrating at the start seems like a real positive heading into this game.
“Going away to play Treviso has always been a real tough fixture and this week will be no different. Though they are missing a few players on international duty, they’ve got a lot more strength in depth this season and although they’ve lost a couple of games they seem to be coming very close.
“We know what it’s like to go over there and play. It’s always a really tough fixture. We’ve always had very close battles over there.”
Franco Sbaraglini (Benetton Treviso) – “I’ve been out for a while (through injury) but coming back into the team it’s not really changed. For me, it wasn’t that serious an injury because it was a muscular problem, but it was one of those that keeps coming back.
“I took a little longer to recover than normal. After seven months without playing it will take a little time but I’m working hard. The scrums are going back a little bit to what used to happen in the past so I remember what that was like.
“For those who are a little bit younger, they’ve never seen scrums like this so it’s a little bit more difficult. We’ve had a few problems early on but it’s getting better little by little.
“Leinster are a very strong team, even without their internationals. We’ve had some good results without our internationals as well and we’ll hope to do it again.
“They have a good lineout but so do we so that should be a good battle. We’ve played them a lot over the last four years, and beaten them a few times. We’ll see how it goes on Sunday but it should be a good game.”
Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Benetton Treviso – Points: Mat Berquist 30; Tries: Ludovico Nitoglia 3; Leinster – Points: Jimmy Gopperth 55; Tries: David Kearney 2
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
Saturday, September 15, 2012 – Benetton Treviso 18 Leinster 19, Stadio di Monigo
Saturday, February 16, 2013 – Leinster 40 Benetton Treviso 5, the RDS
– Benetton Treviso have won just one of their last four matches in the RaboDirect PRO12: 23-3 at home to Connacht in round 5, the only one of those games played in Treviso
– The Italians have lost only one PRO12 game at the Stadio di Monigo in the last twelve months: 24-19 to the Ospreys on September 7
– The Italians’ only defeat in their last six encounters with Irish provinces was 32-13 in Ulster in September
– Leinster have won their last four matches in all competitions and have been victorious in their last 11 fixtures against Italian opponents
– Treviso’s only victory in their eight previous clashes with Leinster in all competitions was 29-13 at the Stadio di Monigo in the PRO12 in September 2010