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Leinster Rugby vs Benetton Treviso
RDS Showground, Dublin
Saturday, 16th February 2013, 17:00

Television: Not Televised - Thanks to RTE!

With no Six Nations game this weekend, the focus is back on the league as Leinster take on Benetton Treviso at the RDS. The Leinster squad will go into the match buoyed by a fine performance from a young team last weekend in Cardiff. In a game played in miserable conditions on a heavy pitch, they took charge in the first half and ultimately ran out 26-11 winners. Of course only the supporters present were able to witness the performance as most Leinster fans were only able to "follow" the game on Twitter.

There's another TV black-out this week as RTE can't be bothered to send TV cameras a few hundred yards up the road. So supporters who can't make the game will miss out as will the many Leinster supporters abroad. The Dragons game in two week's time will also receive no TV coverage. At this rate, Leinster are going to become some sort of underground cult act, talked about but rarely seen. Once again you have to question the competence of the administrators of the league for arranging a TV deal where one of its biggest and most successful teams can effectively be shut out on the whim of broadcasters.

However back to the match and for eighth placed Treviso it's been another struggle of a season and they're perhaps a little disappointed they haven't kicked on to challenge for the top six. They were in the group of death in the Heineken Cup with Leicester, Toulouse and the Ospreys but largely performed creditably. They beat the Ospreys at home and made both the Tigers and Toulouse sweat before losing narrowly. And though they were well beaten on the road, they weren't decimated either.

After a good start to the league when the beat the Ospreys and the Scarlets and ran Leinster extremely close, they've settled back into their usual form which is decent at home but weak on the road. Their only away wins have come against strugglers Edinburgh and Zebre. They've lost their last two games away to Glasgow and the Dragons and won't approach tomorrow's game with any great hope.

Their coach Franco Smith seems to be targeting next week's home match against Munster and he has named a decidedly under-strength team even for this time of year. Italian international Manoa Vosawai starts in place of Robert Barbieri at number eight but two of their star foreign players Christian Loamanu and Brendan Williams are left on the bench. Michele Rizzo is a handy scrummager on the loosehead and skipper Corniel Van Zyl is an experienced operator in the second row but otherwise this is a pretty callow-looking side.

Leinster are happy to welcome back several of the Ireland Six Nations squad in Luke Fitzgerald, Fergus McFadden, Eoin Reddan, Sean Cronin and Devin Toner. Overall there are eleven changes (two positional) to the team that started last weekend. Reddan comes in at scrum-half to partner Ian Madigan who was in excellent form with the boot last week, kicking six from six. Andrew Goodman is partnered in midfield by Eoin O'Malley who makes his first start for the seniors since May of last season. Fitzgerald and McFadden come into the back three with Dave Kearney moving from full back to wing.

Jack McGrath is the only member of the front five to hold his spot and he's joined by Cronin and Jamie Hagan in the front row while Ben Marshall gets another chance to show his stuff in the second row alongside Toner. Rhys Ruddock comes in to captain the team from blindside with Dominic Ryan switching over to open-side and the impressive Jordi Murphy continuing as eighth man. There's plenty of experience on the bench if needed in the shape of Leo Cullen, Shane Jennings and Isaac Boss.

It is a particularly strong Leinster line-up for this time of year and though Treviso will be undoubtedly game, it's hard to see Leinster not winning with a good bit to spare.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Benetton Treviso
Teams Luke Fitzgerald 15 Giulio Toniolatti
Dave Kearney 14 Ludovico Nitoglia
Eoin O'Malley
13 Andrea Pratichetti
Andrew Goodman
12 Gideon La Grange
Fergus McFadden 11 Tommaso Iannone
Ian Madigan 10 James Ambrosini
Eoin Reddan 9 Fabio Semenzato

Jack McGrath 1 Michele Rizzo
Sean Cronin 2 Giovanni Maistri
Jamie Hagan 3 Jacobus Roux
Ben Marshall 4 Marco Fuser
Devin Toner 5 Corniel Van Zyl (C)
Rhys Ruddock (C) 6 Dean Budd
Dominic Ryan 7 Valerio Bernabo
Jordi Murphy 8 Manoa Vosawai

Replacements Aaron Dundon 16 Franco Sbaraglini
Jack O'Connell 17 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet
Michael Bent 18 Pedro Di Santo
Leo Cullen 19 Enrico Ceccato
Shane Jennings 20 Filippo Giusti
Isaac Boss 21 Christian Loamanu
Noel Reid 22 Luca Morisi
Fionn Carr 23 Brendan Williams
Not considered
due to injury
Richardt Strauss,
Damian Browne,
Quinn Roux,
Colm O'Shea,
Adam Byrne,
Dan Leavy,
Edward Byrne,
Brian Byrne,
Isa Nacewa,
Heinke van der Merwe
Match Officials Referee: Leighton Hodges (WRU),
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Barrie O'Connell (both IRFU),
4th Official: John Carvill (Leinster Rugby Referees),
5th Official: Tim Townend (Leinster Rugby Referees)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2013-02-15