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Benetton Rugby Treviso vs Leinster Rugby,
Stadio Comunale di Monigo, Treviso,
Sunday, 23rd November 2014, 15:30 (14:30 Irish time)

Television: Sky Sports 2, Nuvolari

So after three weeks off Leinster are back in action this Sunday. Last year they travelled to Treviso in the corresponding weekend of the season. While Ireland were going agonisingly close against the All Blacks in the Aviva stadium, Leinster were grinding out a tough win in Treviso. It was seen by the squad as one of the best wins of the season as Treviso had built up a reputation for being very hard to beat at home. Sadly for them, they are no longer seen that way.

After performing creditably since entering the league, Treviso effectively fell apart in the middle of last season. In a display of mismanagement shocking even by rugby administrator standards, the FIR announced they were leaving the Pro12 to return to an Italian domestic league. Now this just turned out to be a bargaining ploy in the end but it had a fairly disastrous effect on Treviso. Their top players, fearful of the effects on their international careers that would come from returning to a lower standard of rugby, immediately got on the phone to their agents.

So most of their top internationals like Alberto De Marchi, Lorenzo Cittadini, Luke McLean, Leonardo Ghiraldini and Robert Barbieri announced their intention to leave, mostly to English clubs. Morale collapsed and there were some truly humiliating performances such as when they conceded 75 points to the Ospreys and 62 points to Leinster. Treviso seemed happy enough to let the players off and not have them on the wage bill until of course, the FIR reversed their decision in April. Then Treviso found they needed a squad for the Pro12 after all but this was the wrong time to be recruiting in rugby as all the real talent has been signed up at this stage.

So they brought in 24 new players, most of whom even obsessive rugby fans would never have heard of. Effectively this season, they've been starting from scratch as a playing squad, just like Zebre were two seasons ago. While Zebre's performances and results have improved this season Treviso's have been abysmal, losing every game in all competitions. They're rooted to the bottom of the Pro12 table with only one losing bonus to their name. They're badly in need of a lift and they will hope to get something in Sunday's game.

Head coach Umberto Casellato is missing his few remaining quality players to the international team so he's named a fairly unfamiliar looking side. Dean Budd and Corniel Van Zyl are two of the more recognisable names in the pack and wingers Andrea Pratichetti and Ludovico Nitoglia are both internationals but this is a frankly weak looking side. Leinster fans will at least recognise former number eight Leo Auva'a, who is named on the bench.

Leinster are obviously missing several players due to international duty, but they're still able to name a strong team as more players gradually get back to full fitness. Dave Kearney is back for his first start of the season and his return means that Luke Fitzgerald moves to outside centre in place of the injured Ben Te'o in the only change to the backline. The only other change to the team that started against Edinburgh is the return of Jordi Murphy in place of Dominic Ryan. Ryan was released from Ireland duty but he takes his place on the bench alongside short-term signing Jamie Hagan, who begins his third spell as a Leinster player.

Kevin McLaughlin captains the team again and he should be able to lead his side to a comfortable enough victory.

Team Lineups

Benetton Rugby Treviso

Leinster Rugby
Teams Jayden Hayward 15 Zane Kirchner
Andrea Pratichetti 14 Darragh Fanning
Enrico Bacchin 13 Luke Fitzgerald
Sam Christie 12 Noel Reid
Ludovico Nitoglia 11 Dave Kearney
Joe Carlisle 10 Jimmy Gopperth
Alberto Lucchese 9 Luke McGrath

Matteo Zanusso 1 Michael Bent
Davide Giazzon 2 Richardt Strauss
Rupert Harden 3 Tadhg Furlong
Tomas Vallejos 4 Tom Denton
Corniel Van Zyl (C) 5 Kane Douglas
Marco Barbini6 Kevin McLaughlin (C)
Dean Budd 7 Jordi Murphy
Mat Luamanu8 Jack Conan

Replacements Amar Kudin 16 Bryan Byrne
Jose Novak 17 Peter Dooley
Romulo Acosta 18 Jamie Hagan
Marco Fuser 19 Ben Marshall
Meyer Swanepoel 20
Dominic Ryan
Leo Auva'a 21 Isaac Boss
Ruggero Trevisan 22 Cathal Marsh
James Ambrosini 23 Brendan Macken

Not Considered
due to Injury
Paul Derbyshire,
Giovanni Maistri,
Bruno Mercanti,
Antonio Pavanello,
Franco Sbaraglini,
Alberto Sgarbi.

Colin O'Shea,
Sean O'Brien,
Cian Healy,
Martin Moore,
Edward Byrne,
Mike McCarthy,
Ben Te'o,
Shane Jennings,
Fergus McFadden
Officials Referee: Neil Paterson,
Assistant Referees: Claudio Blessano, Andrea Spadoni (both FIR),
Citing Commissioner: Alberto Recaldini (FIR),
TMO: Mauro Dordolo (FIR)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2014-11-21