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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Zebre v Leinster

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Zebre v Leinster

Leinster will make their first trip to Stadio XXV Aprile to face Zebre on Sunday, with a number of the province’s youngsters and fringe players keen to impress while the internationals are away.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Sunday, February 9

ZEBRE (11th) v LEINSTER (4th), Stadio XXV Aprile, 6pm local time/5pm Irish time (live Sport Mediaset/www.RTE.ie stream)

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Team News: The Leinster team to face Zebre in Sunday evening’s RaboDirect PRO12 clash at the Stadio XXV Aprile has been named.

With 13 Leinster players named in the Ireland squad to face Wales in the Six Nations, the province’s head coach Matt O’Connor has made a number of changes to his starting line-up.

Leinster have not played in the RaboDirect PRO12 since back in early January when they won away to provincial rivals Connacht.

As always, this Six Nations window has presented players with opportunities to stake a claim for a regular starting berth.

Leinster Academy players Sam Coghlan Murray and Tadhg Furlong will get a chance in Parma on the left wing and at tighthead prop respectively, while three other Leinster Academy players are named among the replacements.

O’Connor also welcomes back influential forwards Mike McCarthy and Jordi Murphy, who were released from the Ireland camp and are both named in the side.

With Zane Kirchner switched from the right wing to full-back, Darragh Fanning comes in for only his seventh Leinster cap after a number of impressive performances for the province’s ‘A’ team, while the aforementioned Coghlan Murray takes his place on the opposite wing.

Brendan Macken gets a chance to impress in the number 13 jersey with Noel Reid beside him in the centre, while John Cooney and Jimmy Gopperth are selected at half-back, with the latter only two points short of 150 career points for Leinster.

In the pack only flanker Murphy is retained from the side that beat Connacht 16-8 at the Sportsground with Kevin McLaughlin and Shane Jennings also in the back row.

Michael Bent, Aaron Dundon and Furlong pack down in the front row with the experienced duo of captain Leo Cullen and McCarthy behind them.

Sunday’s game will be televised live in Italy on Sport Mediaset. It will also be streamed live on www.rte.ie (island of Ireland only).

Meanwhile, New Zealander Kelly Haimona – one of four permit players included by Zebre – will start at out-half for the Italian side against Leinster.

The Calvisano clubman forms a new Kiwi half-back partnership with former All Black Brendon Leonard, with Zebre missing nine players who are on duty for Italy against France in the Six Nations.

Experienced prop Matias Aguero will lead the home team out for the first time, becoming the seventh captain in Zebre’s short history.

Head coach Andrea Cavinato has named three PRO12 newcomers on the bench in hooker Lorenzo Giovanchelli and flanker Giacomo Bernini from I Cavalieri Prato, and Lazio Rugby utility back Giulio Bisegni.

ZEBRE: Ruggero Trevisan; Giulio Toniolatti, Roberto Quartaroli, Kameli Ratuvou, David Odiete; Kelly Haimona, Brendon Leonard; Matias Aguero (capt), Tommaso D’Apice, Dario Chistolini, Emiliano Caffini, George Biagi, Filippo Ferrarini, Andries van Schalkwyk, Samuela Vunisa.

Replacements: Lorenzo Giovanchelli, Andrea de Marchi, David Ryan, Michael van Vuuren, Giacomo Bernini, Alberto Chillon, Giulio Bisegni, Filippo Cristiano.

LEINSTER: Zane Kirchner; Darragh Fanning, Brendan Macken, Noel Reid, Sam Coghlan Murray; Jimmy Gopperth, John Cooney; Michael Bent, Aaron Dundon, Tadhg Furlong, Leo Cullen (capt), Mike McCarthy, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings, Jordi Murphy.

Replacements: James Tracy, Jack O’Connell, Edward Byrne, Tom Denton, Dominic Ryan, Luke McGrath, Ian Madigan, Darren Hudson.

Referee: Neil Hennessy (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Filippo Bertelli, Francesco Russo (both Italy)
Television Match Official: Carlo Damasco (Italy)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Zebre to win: 10/3; Draw: 22/1; Leinster to win: 2/9

Pre-Match Quotes: Matt O’Connor (Leinster) – “These are the most important four points of the season bar none. The guys understand that.

“This period will determine whether you make the top four or not or whether you are at home in a semi-final or not. These guys understand that, they understand what is at stake, individually and collectively, and I’m sure they can step up to the plate.

“It puts a strain on the squad to lose five guys in the front row to the national set-up, but that’s an opportunity for the guys behind them.

“Currently, we are doing all right. If we had a couple of injuries, that would put us under significant pressure, but I’m sure the guys we put out there on Sunday will be capable of doing a job for us.”

Andrea Cavinato (Zebre) – “We showed in our last game in Europe (losing 16-6 to Toulouse) that we had grown as a team, and I’m grateful to the players for that.

“But for too many years we’ve received compliments but lost games, I’d prefer it to be the other way around.

“We suffer at times from being too rushed to finish off the build-up work, trying to go too quickly when players are out of position.

“We want to play with a lot of rhythm and at a quick pace, but now we need to show that extra quality by making the right decisions at vital moments.”

Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Zebre – Points: Luciano Orquera 84; Tries: Leonardo Sarto 3; Leinster – Points: Jimmy Gopperth 88; Tries: Dave Kearney, Noel Reid, Jack McGrath, Jordi Murphy 2 each


Saturday, December 1, 2012 – Leinster 37 Zebre 7, the RDS
Sunday, April 21, 2013 – Zebre 22 Leinster 41, Stadio Citta del Tricolore


– Zebre doubled their tally of victories in their history with their 14-12 win at home to Benetton Treviso in round 12. They are now attempting to win back-to-back matches for the first time

– Leinster’s only defeat in their last seven matches in the PRO12 was 11-6 at Edinburgh on December 20

– The Leinstermen have actually won six of their last seven away fixtures in all competitions, and have not lost to Italian opponents since they visited Treviso in September 2010

– Leinster have easily won their only two previous fixtures against Zebre with a combined score of 78-29, outscoring the Italians by ten tries to four