Leinster have won their last four away matches in the RaboDirect PRO12 and they will seek to extend that winning run against bottom side Zebre in Reggio Emilia on Sunday.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Sunday, April 21
ZEBRE (12th) v LEINSTER (2nd), Stadio del Tricolore, Reggio Emilia, 4pm local time/3pm Irish time (live RTÉ Two/SportItalia 2)
Team News: The Leinster team to face Zebre in Sunday afternoon’s RaboDirect PRO12 clash at the Stadio del Tricolore has been named.
Brian O’Driscoll captains an experienced team to Reggio Emilia for an important away clash for the province as they aim to secure a home play-off berth.
O’Driscoll partners Andrew Goodman in the centre with Ireland international Fergus McFadden named on the right wing, in a back-three which also includes Fionn Carr and Isa Nacewa.
Leinster are also boosted by the return of Jonathan Sexton from injury and he will line out in blue for the first time since the Heineken Cup victory over Exeter Chiefs in January, earning his 105th Leinster cap.
The St. Mary’s College clubman lines out at half-back alongside John Cooney in a starting line up which includes three former Gonzaga College graduates.
In the pack, Kevin McLaughlin forms an abrasive back row unit with number 8 Rhys Ruddock and Dominic Ryan.
Tom Denton packs down alongside Devin Toner in the second row, while loosehead prop Jack McGrath will make his 33rd appearance in a front row which also features Richardt Strauss and Michael Bent.
Academy out-half Cathal Marsh, a regular starter for Leinster ‘A’, is in line to make his senior debut for the province should he feature off the bench.
Meanwhile, the Zebre management have made three personel changes to the side that started last weekend’s 28-13 defeat away to the Cardiff Blues.
Matteo Pratichetti replaces Gonzalo Garcia at inside centre, while hooker Andrea Manici and flanker Mauro Bergamasco return in the forwards with Josh Sole reverting to number 8 in place of sidelined top try scorer Andries van Schalkwyk.
Team captain Marco Bortolami is joined in the second row by Michael van Vuuren, who lined out in the back row for the Blues game.
ZEBRE: Ruggero Trevisan; Leonardo Sarto, Giovanbattista Venditti, Matteo Pratichetti, Sinoti Sinoti; Daniel Halangahu, Alberto Chillon; Matias Aguero, Andrea Manici, Luciano Leibson, Michael van Vuuren, Marco Bortolami (capt), Filippo Ferrarini, Mauro Bergamasco, Josh Sole.
Replacements: Carlo Festuccia, Andrea de Marci, Salvatore Perugini, Emiliano Caffini, Filippo Cristiano, Tito Tebaldi, Luciano Orquera, David Odiete.
LEINSTER: Isa Nacewa; Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Andrew Goodman, Fionn Carr; Jonathan Sexton, John Cooney; Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss, Michael Bent, Tom Denton, Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Dominic Ryan, Rhys Ruddock.
Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Jack O’Connell, Jamie Hagan, Quinn Roux, Leo Auva’a, Isaac Boss, Cathal Marsh, Andrew Conway.
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Stefano Penne, Elio Rizzo (both Italy)
Television Match Official: Alan Falzone (Italy)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Zebre to win: 5/1; Draw: 33/1; Leinster to win: 1/9
Pre-Match Quotes: Andrew Goodman (Leinster) – “It was a pretty big win for us in Limerick last Saturday night, especially with Glasgow going down the night before,” he told the Herald.
“So we’re going to have to keep that intensity high and drive on against Zebre on Sunday and then the Ospreys in two weeks as we try to get that home semi-final. Motivation? There will be no let-up because we can’t afford to.
“We have to approach Sunday’s game in the right frame of mind. Zebre haven’t won yet this season, but they’ve picked up a lot of losing bonus points which would indicate that they have been knocking on the door for a while.
“And I’m sure that they’ll be firing to knock off one of the top dogs in the league. I’ve played with sides before in their position and it can act as a real motivator. If we bring any less intensity, it will make for a long afternoon. And we know that.”
Top Scorers – 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Zebre – Points: Daniel Halangahu 59; Tries: Andries van Schalkwyk 6; Leinster – Points: Ian Madigan 184; Tries: Ian Madigan 6
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, December 1, 2012 – Leinster 37 Zebre 7, the RDS
– This game has been moved to the Stadio Citta del Tricolore in Reggio Emilia to raise funds for victims of earthquake that hit the region last year
– The stadium will become the 37th venue to host a RaboDirect PRO12 match. Just two other major rugby games have been played at the arena, with the Pacific Islanders beating Italy there in November 2008 and the Ospreys defeating Viadana in the Heineken Cup a year later
– Leinster’s only loss in their last twelve fixtures in all competitions was 22-18 to Ulster at the RDS in the PRO12 on March 30, and they are unbeaten on the road in 2013
– The Leinstermen have won their last ten games against Italian opponents in the PRO102 since their 29-13 reversal in Treviso in September 2010
– Leinster won 37-7 when the two sides met at the RDS in round 10 of this season’s league