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Benetton Treviso vs Leinster Rugby
Stadio di Monigo, Treviso, Italy
Saturday, 26th November 2011, 15:00 (14:00 Irish Time)

Television: Live RTE2/RAI

First the good news! Thanks to FIRA doing a deal with Italian national broadcaster RAI, and RTE taking their feed, we'll actually be able to see this match. On Leinster's last trip to Italy in Aironi we had to rely on twitter feeds and radio updates which can be pretty frustrating.

The bad news is that this is going to be a pretty tough assignment that we'll get to witness. Last season Leinster lost in Treviso and it was no fluke either, they were comprehensively beaten 29-13. They'll face a team full of confidence and will have to do so missing a large chunk of their own squad. Several frontline players have to be rested on the orders of the IRFU and there is quite a lengthy injury list as well.

Leinster will at least enter the game in buoyant mood after beating Glasgow comfortably last weekend. It really only took them one half to do the job including earning the four-try bonus point. That first half was their performance of the season so far. They out-muscled Glasgow at the breakdown giving Eoin Reddan a great platform to spray quick passes to a hungry backline. Luke Fitzgerald and Rob Kearney both looked back to their best form and Eoin O'Malley put in an excellent all round display topped off with two tries. The win puts them two points in front of Bath ahead of their double-header in two weeks time that should decide the pool. Before those two games though, Leinster have Pro12 business to attend to.

Despite their bad start to the campaign Leinster have recovered very well to lie second in the table only trailing leaders the Ospreys by points difference. The Ospreys have a difficult trip to Galway to face Connacht so Leinster will hope the Westerners can do them a favour. However the Ospreys will know Leinster have a tough match of their own as they were lucky to escape from Treviso last week with 26-all draw. They needed a last minute Matthew Morgan penalty to get that. Though Treviso were well beaten in their first Heineken Cup match away to Saracens, they will take great heart from that result.

Their Pro12 season has been pretty decent so far as well. They lie in sixth place in the table with four wins from eight games. Their home form hasn't been quite as impressive as it was last season and they've already gone down to Connacht and Edinburgh on their own patch, games they would have targeted for wins. However on the plus side, they've already done something they didn't manage all last season, which is win outside of Italy. Not once but twice in fact, beating Warriors and Ulster.

Their coach Franco Smith has named a side with three changes to the team that started last week. Italian international Luke McLean comes in at full back in place of Ludovico Nitoglia. The rest of the backs are unchanged and Tobias Botes, Brendan Williams and Tommaso Benvenuti are the names to watch out for.

In the pack Paul Derbyshire replaces Benjamin Vermaak to form an experienced all-international backrow with Alessandro Zanni and Robert Barbieri. In the second row Valerio Bernabo comes in for Cornelius van Zyl to partner captain Antonio Pavanello. The front row of Michele Rizzo, Enrico Ceccato and Lorenzo Cittadini are a typically tough Italian unit. Overall it's a very strong line-up with plenty of ways to hurt Leinster.

For Leinster coach Joe Schmidt, it's a case of juggling his squad but he's still named an impressive team despite making ten changes (one positional) to the team that started last weekend. After impressing on the left wing over the last few weeks, Luke Fitzgerald is somewhat curiously moved to full back, a position where he struggled last season. Fergus McFadden is back from injury and starts on the right wing with the Eoin O'Malley/Gordon D'Arcy centre partnership retained. Fionn Carr and Ian Madigan come in at left wing and out-half respectively, their first starts since the Connacht home match. After impressing last weekend, Eoin Reddan retains the scrum-half jersey.

In the front row Cian Healy and Jamie Hagan come in at prop alongside hooker Sean Cronin who starts for the second week running. In the second row Damian Browne comes in to start alongside Devin Toner. There's a completely new backrow in Rhys Ruddock, Leo Auva'a and Shane Jennings who captains the team. Jack McGrath, Noel Reid and Brendan Macken are rewarded for their good form for the 'A' team with inclusion on the bench while Kevin McLaughlin, Jamie Heaslip and Isaac Boss provide more experienced options.

The memories of last year's defeat will be fresh in all the coach's minds, indeed Jonno Gibbes described it as 'horrific' during the week. It's going to be a tough task against a physical and intelligent Treviso team but hopefully Leinster have enough talent to squeeze a win that might just put them top of the league.

Team Lineups

Benetton Treviso

Leinster Rugby
Teams Luke McLean 15 Luke Fitzgerald
Benjamin De Jager 14 Fergus McFadden
Tommaso Benvenuti 13 Eoin O'Malley
Alberto Sgarbi 12 Gordon D'Arcy
Brendan Williams 11 Fionn Carr
Kristopher Burton 10 Ian Madigan
Tobias Botes 9 Eoin Reddan

Michele Rizzo 1 Cian Healy
Enrico Ceccato 2 Sean Cronin
Lorenzo Cittadini 3 Jamie Hagan
Antonio Pavanello (C)
4 Damian Browne
Valerio Bernabo 5 Devin Toner
Paul Derbyshire 6 Rhys Ruddock
Alessandro Zanni 7 Shane Jennings (C)
Robert Barbieri 8 Leo Auva'a

Replacements Franco Sbaraglini 16 Aaron Dundon
Matteo Muccignat 17 Jack McGrath
Ignacio Fernandez Rouyet 18 Nathan White
Benjamin Vermaak 19 Kevin McLaughlin
Manoa Vosawai 20 Jamie Heaslip
Francesco Minto 21 Isaac Boss
Fabio Semenzato 22 Noel Reid
Alberto Di Bernardo 23 Brendan Macken

Not Considered
due to Injury

Mat Berquist,
Eamonn Sheridan,
Shane Horgan,
Simon Shawe,
Brian O'Driscoll,
Dominic Ryan,
Steven Sykes,
Jordi Murphy,
Dave Kearney,
Andrew Conway

Referee: George Clancy (IRFU),
Assistant Referees: Stefano Traversi, Matteo Liperni (both FIR),
TMO: Stefano Marrama (FIR)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2011-11-25