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Leinster Rugby vs Treviso
RDS Showground, Dublin,
Friday, 25th February 2011, 19:10

Television: Live: RTE2

Leinster take on Treviso this Friday hoping to bounce back from a defeat away to Cardiff last weekend. That defeat ended their winning streak and coupled with the Ospreys's win away to Treviso meant they dropped from second to fourth in the table. Leinster still have four home games in their remaining seven fixtures plus winnable away trips to Aironi and the Dragons. Winning all these games should be enough to get them the crucial top two spot, however their failure to even get a losing bonus point last week has removed any wiggle room.

Leaving Cardiff with nothing will have annoyed the Leinster coaches all week. As predicted, the Italian referee Carlo Damasco was utterly hopeless and let Cardiff away with murder at the breakdown. However Leinster have been the beneficiary of this dodgy hometown ref before, at home to Edinburgh this season, so it's hard to complain when it goes the other way. Rather Joe Schmidt and company will be annoyed at Leinster's performance especially in their use of the ball and their lack of smarts at the breakdown. When a referee is letting a crafty openside like Martyn Williams run amuck at the rucks, you smash him out of it before he even gets there.

However, there were positives to be taken in the performance of some of the young players, especially Andrew Conway and Ian McKinley, who tried to make things happen. However, the biggest boost came in the second half when a certain Stanley Wright came off the bench. He made his presence felt immediately when the Leinster scrum, which had been struggling all evening, suddenly destroyed the Cardiff scrum. Stan looked in great nick and he starts tomorrow in one of four changes to the line-up. He may be only good for fifty minutes at the most but if he can give Leinster a solid platform in the scrum to work off then it will be very valuable.

Stan's return is one of three changes to the Leinster pack. Leo Cullen is back on Ireland bench-warming duty so Ed O'Donoghue is recalled in the second row for his first start since November. It's fair to say O'Donoghue hasn't exactly set the world alight at Leinster so far, so he'll be looking to show the home crowd what he can do. The last change in the pack is Stephen Keogh coming in for Rhys Ruddock, who drops to the bench.

The only change in the backline is the return from injury of David Kearney on the left wing in place of Niall Morris. The young midfield combination of Ian McKinley, Eamonn Sheridan and Eoin O'Malley is given a vote of confidence and retained en bloc. Last week though, Sheridan and O'Malley switched positions before kick-off and it will be interesting to see if they do it again. Isa Nacewa captains the team from full-back for the first time and it's a measure of how he's grown as a leader in his time with Leinster that he's given this honour.

In contrast to the other Italian team Aironi, Treviso have been having a very solid first season in the Magners League. This has been on the back of a very good home record, where they've won six out of their nine fixtures so far. This includes victories over three Irish provinces; Munster, Connacht and Leinster back in September. They have found things a lot tougher on the road though and so far their only away win was at bottom team Aironi.

They've named a team with six changes and numerous positional switches to the side that were beaten by the Ospreys. At fullback Brendan Williams is out but they've named a quality replacement in former Bath winger Joe Maddock. Their goal-kicking South African scrum-half Tobie Botes misses out due to injury so Ludovico Nitoglia moves in from the wing to take over the number nine jersey. Benjamin De Jager takes Nitoglia's spot on the wing and Andrew Vilk and Willem De Waal come in for Andrea Pratichetti and Andrea Marcato respectively.

There are less changes in the pack with only the front row rotated. Ignacio Fernandez Rouyet switches from loosehead prop to tighthead and Enrico Ceccato and Michele Rizzo come in for Franco Sbaraglini and Pedro Di Santo who drop to the bench. Antonio Pavanello captains the team from the second row and he forms an experienced partnership with South African Corniel Van Zyl. Though they're missing some players due to injury and to the Italy squad, it's still quite a decent team with plenty of experience.

After the recent struggle to get past an under-strength Aironi team at the RDS, Leinster will know not to take Treviso lightly. With their experienced pack, Leinster will look to dominate up front, especially at the breakdown to give the young Leinster backs some decent ball to work with. It probably won't be too pretty, but Leinster should be able to get the win they need to get the show back on the road before the crucial visit of the Scarlets next week.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby

Teams Isa Nacewa (C)
15 Joseph Maddock
Andrew Conway
14 Michele Sepe
Eoin O'Malley 13 Ezio Galon
Eamonn Sheridan
12 Andrew Vilk
David Kearney
11 Benjamin De Jager
Ian McKinley 10 Willem De Waal
Isaac Boss 9 Ludovico Nitoglia

Heinke van der Merwe 1 Michele Rizzo
Richardt Strauss
2 Enrico Ceccato
Stan Wright 3 Ignacio Fernandez Rouyet
Ed O'Donoghue 4 Antonio Pavanello (C)
Devin Toner 5 Corniel Van Zyl
Kevin McLaughlin 6 Benjamin Vermaak
Dominic Ryan
7 Gonzalo Padro
Stephen Keogh
8 Marco Filippucci

Replacements Jason Harris-Wright 16 Franco Sbaraglini
Jack McGrath
17 Matteo Muccignat
Clint Newland 18 Pedro Di Santo
Rhys Ruddock
19 Enrico Pavanello
Paul Ryan
20 Michele Sutto
Paul O'Donohoe 21 Andrea Pratichetti
Ian Madigan 22 Andrea Marcato
Niall Morris
23 Simon Picone

Not Considered
due to Injury
Rob Kearney,
Shane Horgan,
Shaun Berne,
Shane Jennings

Officials Referee: Neil Hennessy (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Dave Wilkinson (IRFU), Richard Kerr (IRFU)
4th Official: Dan Wallace (Leinster Rugby Referees)
5th Official: Gordon Murray (Leinster Rugby Referees)
TMO: Tony Redmond (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2011-02-24