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Zebre vs Leinster Rugby
Guinness Pro12 Round 16
Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi,
Sunday, 28th February 2016, 16:00 (15:00 Irish Time)

Television: Sky Sports 3

Last week's match against Cardiff was not a thing of beauty, the horrendous weather made sure of that. However Leinster did enough to snag a win that moved them up to second in the table behind Connacht with a game in hand. They need to keep up the pressure with a win on Sunday against Zebre, who they hammered 52-0 only two weeks ago. Zebre were fairly poor that night but sometimes playing a team so soon after you've given them a hiding can be tricky. For example Leinster hockeyed Northampton 40-7 in Franklins Gardens three year ago. They expected a handy number the following week in the Aviva only to be beaten 18-9. Now admittedly Zebre aren't Northampton but still Leinster need to avoid complacency.

Zebre responded to the Leinster defeat by giving Connacht a decent match last week. Connacht eventually won 51-34 but Zebre stayed in touch with them for most of the game and earned a bonus point for scoring four tries. Zebre have made seven changes to that side with Tommaso Boni and Fabio Semenzato coming into the backline and Guillermo Roan, Quintin Geldenhuys, Jacopo Sarto and Federico Ruzza coming into the pack. The final change is the most notable one for Leinster fans as former player Ian McKinley is named at out-half.

McKinley was a very promising player for Leinster but his rugby career appeared to be over five years ago when he lost an eye after a freak accident in a club match. However, with the aid of specially made protective goggles, he resumed his career in club rugby in Italy. He later moved to Viadana and his excellent form with them got him noticed by the Italian Pro12 sides. He was called in as cover during the World Cup and came on against the Scarlets but this will be his first start, after only being called into the playing squad during the week. All Leinster fans will hope he goes well on Sunday, just short of winning obviously, and he earns a full time contract for next season.

Leinster make eight changes to the team that started last week. Luke McGrath and Cathal Marsh come in to form a new half-back pairing and Adam Byrne returns to the right wing. Isa Nacewa, who scored his seventh try of the season last week, captains the team from the centre while Garry Ringrose and Ben Te'o are the centre pairing for the fourth game running. Zane Kirchner continues at full back.

In the pack, Peter Dooley and James Tracy come into the front row to join Tadhg Furlong. Ross Molony is recalled to the second row alongside Mick Kearney, who made a fine debut last week. Jack Conan made an excellent return from long term injury last week and he keeps his place at number eight as flankers Dan Leavy and Dominic Ryan come in to complete the back row.

It's a young Leinster team but with lots of talent and they should be able to deliver another comfortable win.

Team Lineups


Leinster Rugby
Teams Mils Muliaina 15 Zane Kirchner
Giulio Toniolatti 14 Adam Byrne
Tommaso Boni 13 Garry Ringrose
Matteo Pratichetti 12 Ben Te'o
Kayle Van Zyl 11 Isa Nacewa (C)
Ian McKinley 10 Cathal Marsh
Fabio Semenzato 9 Luke McGrath

Bruno Postiglioni 1 Peter Dooley
Oliviero Fabiani 2 James Tracy
Guillermo Roan 3 Tadhg Furlong
Marco Bortolami (C) 4 Ross Molony
Quintin Geldenhuys 5 Mick Kearney
Jacopo Sarto 6 Dominic Ryan
Federico Ruzza 7 Dan Leavy
Johan Meyer 8 Jack Conan

Replacements Gabriele Morelli 16 Sean Cronin
Andrea De Marchi 17 Jeremy Loughman
Pietro Ceccarelli 18 Michael Bent
Gideon Koegelenberg 19 Hayden Triggs
Emiliano Caffini 20
Jordi Murphy
Luke Burgess 21 Nick McCarthy
Maicol Azzolini 22 Noel Reid
Ulrich Beyers 23 Cian Kelleher

Not Considered
Due to Injury
Dion Berryman, George Biagi, Giulio Bisegni, Jean Cook, Tommaso D'Apice, Paul Derbyshire, Filippo Ferrarini, Andrea Handles, Marcello Violi, Michele Visentin
Edward Byrne, Tom Farrell, Marty Moore, Royce Burke-Flynn, Gavin Thornbury, Dave Kearney, Sean O'Brien, Isaac Boss, Mike McCarthy, Ross Byrne
Officials Referee: Leighton Hodges (WRU, 55th competition game),
Assistant Referees: Matteo Liperini, Ricardo Angelucci (both FIR),
Citing Commissioner: Francesco Grillo (FIR),
TMO: Stefano Penne (FIR)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2016-02-26