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Leinster Rugby vs Benetton Treviso
RDS Showground, Dublin
Thursday, 9th February 2012, 19:05

Television: Live - RTE2

After a three-week break, Leinster are back in action in the Pro12 against Italian side Benetton Treviso. Unfortunately because of TV scheduling, it's on a Thursday evening with a 7:05PM kick-off, which means the crowd will be greatly reduced from normal. Nevertheless it will provide a welcome distraction for the fans present from the latest wretched international display.

Of course due to the Six Nations Championship, Leinster will be without most of their Irish internationals for the next four or five games. This will put a major strain on the squad but will also provide opportunities for several young players to show what they can do. Leinster have worked hard to create a nine-point lead at the top of the table though and Joe Schmidt will be determined to at very least maintain that lead until the big names return at the end of March for the trip to Munster.

Leinster have five games to play before that, with home matches against the Scarlets and Ospreys and away trips to Aironi and Glasgow. But first up is Benetton Treviso at home. Treviso are having a reasonably decent season sitting in eighth place in the table with six wins. In the Heineken Cup they had some good days too particularly at home where they beat Biarritz, drew with the Ospreys and ran English champions Saracens very close indeed.

Their recent form isn't so great having only won one of their last six games in all competitions. However they have won twice in Ireland already this season in Connacht and Ulster so they will travel with confidence. Like Leinster, they are missing most of their first-choice team due to international commitments so they've name a team showing twelve changes to the team that started against Saracens.

Full-back Ludovico Nitoglia, wing Brendan Williams and flanker Benjamin Vermaak are the only players to retain their starting spots from that match. Former international Ezio Galon is in the centre alongside Andrea Pratichetti and Alberto Di Bernardo and Alberto Chillon are the half-backs. Valerio Bernabo captains the team from the second row alongside Francesco Minto who's back from suspension. Treviso gave Leinster a tough time in the scrum in the away match and Argentinean-born Ignacio Fernandez Rouyet is a fairly handy tighthead.

With the Ireland team not being named until tomorrow, Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has been denied access to fringe members of the Ireland squad like Eoin O'Malley, Dave Kearney and Rhys Ruddock. They'll most likely spend the weekend twiddling their thumbs when they're not holding tackle-bags and Schmidt has been forced to name a team with a wide range of experience.

In truth the pack had a pretty solid look about it. Heinke van der Merwe, Richardt Strauss and Nathan White make up an all Southern Hemisphere front row. Damian Browne is carrying a shoulder injury but will play through the pain to partner Devin Toner in the second row. Kevin McLaughlin is back from injury and he'll captain the team for the first time from the back row alongside Shane Jennings and Leo Auva'a.

The backline has a more callow look about it though. Darren Hudson makes his first competitive start for Leinster on the wing and Colm O'Shea makes his Leinster debut at inside centre. The hard-running O'Shea and the quick and powerful Hudson are rewarded for their excellent form for the 'A' team which has seen them reach the semi-finals of the British and Irish cup. Brendan Macken has also excelled for that team and he makes his fourth Leinster start at his favoured position of outside centre. The young lads will rely heavily on the experience of Isa Nacewa and Fionn Carr around them. Ian Madigan and Isaac Boss are the half-backs and Madigan in particular will be required to show how far he's come in directing the play. Winger Andrew Boyle could make his debut if he's sprung from the bench.

With the three week break and all the changes to the team, it will probably take Leinster a while to get back into their rhythm. It could well be a scrappy enough game but Leinster should have enough to grind out a win.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby

Benetton Treviso
Teams Isa Nacewa
15 Ludovico Nitoglia
Darren Hudson
14 Benjamin De Jager
Brendan Macken
13 Ezio Galon
Colm O'Shea 12 Andrea Pratichetti
Fionn Carr 11 Brendan Williams
Ian Madigan
10 Alberto Di Bernardo
Isaas Boss
9 Alberto Chillon

Heinke van der Merwe 1 Matteo Muccignat
Richardt Strauss
2 Enrico Ceccato
Nathan White 3 Ignacio Fernandez Rouyet
Damian Browne 4 Francesco Minto
Devin Toner 5 Valerio Bernabo (C)
Kevin McLaughlin (C)
6 Gonzalo Padro
Shane Jennings 7 Benjamin Vermaak
Leo Auva'a 8 Marco Filippucci

Replacements Tom Sexton 16 Diego Vidal
Jack McGrath 17 Carlo Fazzari
Jamie Hagan 18 Pedro Di Santo
Mark Flanagan 19 Marco Fuser
Jordi Murphy
20 Enrico Pavanello
John Cooney 21 Simon Picone
Noel Reid 22 Gonzalo Garcia
Andrew Boyle 23 Tommaso Iannone

Not Considered
due to Injury
Mat Berquist,
Shane Horgan,
Brian O'Driscoll,
Eamonn Sheridan,
Luke Fitzgerald,
Andrew Conway,
Leo Cullen,
Ben Marshall,
Dominic Ryan


Officials Referee: Leighton Hodges (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Mark Patton, Richard Kerr (both IRFU)
4th Official: Kevin Beggs (Leinster Rugby Referees)
5th Official: Helen O'Reilly (Leinster Rugby Referees)
TMO:
Alan Rogan (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2012-02-08

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