Jump to main content


RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Leinster v Zebre

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Leinster v Zebre

Leinster are poised to extend their lead at the top of the RaboDirect PRO12 when they entertain bottom side Zebre, with birthday boy Ian Madigan looking to crown his 100th provincial appearance with a win.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, March 21

LEINSTER (1st) v ZEBRE (12th), the RDS, 7.15pm (live RTÉ Two/Sport Mediaset)

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

Team News: Leinster return to the RDS on Friday night after a break of three weeks to welcome Zebre in round 17 of the RaboDirect PRO12.

Head coach Matt O’Connor has named an experienced side and has 11 full internationals in his starting line-up with another three held in reserve on the bench.

There are two changes to the back-line that played against the Glasgow Warriors three weeks ago, with Isaac Boss coming in at scrum half and Eoin Reddan benched after his exploits in Paris last weekend.

Luke Fitzgerald also makes a welcome return having been close to starting on a number of occasions in the last few months.

Beside Boss is birthday boy and the latest member of Leinster’s 100-cap club, Ian Madigan, who will celebrate on the double at the RDS.

Madigan, who made his Leinster debut in May 2009 against the Dragons, has 446 points to his credit in that time, which includes 19 tries in all competitions. He turns 25 on Friday.

There is a completely new front row selected with Michael Bent, Richardt Strauss and Tadhg Furlong on from the start.

Sean Cronin and Jack McGrath have failed to shake off the minor knocks they picked up against France, while another of Ireland’s Six Nations winners, prop Martin Moore, will start on the bench.

Leo Cullen captains the side from the second row alongside Mike McCarthy, while in the back row Kevin McLaughlin is back after the injury sustained away to the Cardiff Blues, with Dominic Ryan at openside flanker and Jordi Murphy at number 8.

Leinster played Zebre as recently as last month in Parma where they recorded a 31-8 bonus point victory, while in the corresponding fixture last year Leinster won 37-7 in front of nearly 16,000 spectators at the RDS.

Tickets for the Leinster v Zebre round 17 game are still available at www.leinsterrugby.ie.

Meanwhile, Zebre boss Andrea Cavinato has made five changes and a number of positional switches to the team that beat Cardiff 15-10 on March 1.

The league’s bottom side scored tries through winger Giulio Toniolatti and former All Black scrum half Brendon Leonard as they secured their first ever season’s double in the PRO12.

Five of the eleven Zebre players who lined out for Italy in the Six Nations are included for the trip to Dublin – returning captain Marco Bortolami, Tommaso Iannone, who moves from centre to out-half, lock George Biagi and replacements Davide Giazzon and Guglielmo Palazzani.

David Odiete replaces Palazzani at full-back and Dion Berryman is restored to the left wing berth with Kelly Haimona the player to make way.

Tommaso D’Apice and David Ryan have been added to the front row and Bortolami’s return sees Andries van Schalkwyk revert to the back row, with Braam Steyn not included in the matchday 23.

LEINSTER: Zane Kirchner; Darragh Fanning, Fergus McFadden, Noel Reid, Luke Fitzgerald; Ian Madigan, Isaac Boss; Michael Bent, Richardt Strauss, Tadhg Furlong, Leo Cullen (capt), Mike McCarthy, Kevin McLaughlin, Dominic Ryan, Jordi Murphy.

Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Jack O’Connell, Martin Moore, Tom Denton, Shane Jennings, Eoin Reddan, Jimmy Gopperth, Brendan Macken.

ZEBRE: David Odiete; Giulio Toniolatti, Giovanbattista Venditti, Kameli Ratuvou, Dion Berryman; Tommaso Iannone, Brendon Leonard; Salvatore Perugini, Tommaso D’Apice, David Ryan, George Biagi, Marco Bortolami (capt), Filippo Ferrarini, Andries van Schalkwyk, Samuela Vunisa.

Replacements: Davide Giazzon, Andrea de Marchi, Dario Chistolini, Michael van Vuuren, Guglielmo Palazzani, Alberto Chillon, Emiliano Caffini, Filippo Cristiano.

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Kieran Barry, Andy Brace (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/200; Draw: 70/1; Zebre to win: 25/1

Pre-Match Quotes: Matt O’Connor (Leinster) – “The guys who have been with us through the Six Nations block have been outstanding. We have taken 19 points out of a possible 20, we have had some very good wins and by and large everyone has been performing really well.

“There will be some tough decisions made and this is another opportunity for those guys in the shirt to press their claims for the big games in the back end of the season.

“Everyone is excited (for this part of the campaign). At the start of the season you look at it and it’s a very lengthy schedule.

“The focus is really clear now. There are not many games to go and everyone in the squad wants to be part of those big occasions. That in itself creates focus and creates competition in the squad.

“Zebre are an awkward side. They’re hard to beat, they’ve got a very good set piece and they’ve got some experienced blokes – blokes who have played a lot of Test footy, a lot of provincial footy. You’ve got to be on your game.

“We found that at their place last time when we were over there we didn’t perform in the first half like we should have, we put ourselves under pressure and it was an arm wrestle for 60 minutes. We’ll be making sure we bring the accuracy and intensity early in the contest.

“Replacing Brian O’Driscoll is quite difficult, first off. Then you have a World Cup year, so there’s not that many blokes around who are capable of replacing him on the market currently.

“We’re confident with the bodies in our squad that we can cope with that void in the short-term.

“We will look at the options surrounding that at some point in the future. Luke (Fitzgerald) certainly has the skill-set to do it.”

Marco Bortolami (Zebre) – “There will be two groups of players who are determinated to show that they’re as much competitive as the starters.

“Everybody is focused to gain minutes on the field until the end of the season to support both sides’ ambitions.

“In the first encounter in Parma, our boys were competitive at least for the first hour. This gives us the belief that this could happen tomorrow night too.

“In Dublin, in particular, it’s another story, but we must take to the RDS pitch with confidence in our potential.”

Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Leinster – Points: Jimmy Gopperth 109; Tries: Noel Reid 4; Zebre – Points: Luciano Orquera 87; Tries: Leonardo Sarto, Andries van Schalkwyk, Samuela Vunisa 3 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


– Leinster have won their last eight matches in all competitions, while in the RaboDirect PRO12 they have been defeated only once since round five: 11-6 at Edinburgh on December 20

– The Leinstermen are unbeaten at the RDS in any competition since Ulster were the visitors in the PRO12 on March 30 last year

– Zebre achieved their third victory of the season in their last contest at home to the Cardiff Blues and are now attempting to record back-to-back victories for the first time

– Leinster have won all three previous contests between the two sides