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Leinster Rugby vs Benetton Treviso
Guinness Pro12 Round 21
RDS Showground, Dublin,
Friday, 8th May 2015, 19:35

Television: Live - TG4

Leinster's defeat to Ulster two weeks ago ended their chances of making the top four for the play-offs. After contesting five finals in a row, it's a pretty big drop-off for Leinster to be totally out of contention with two weeks of regular games remaining. Leinster would have been in a mood to kick back, throw in the (mostly ignored) kids from the academy for the last two games, open a bottle of whiskey and do their best to forget this wretched season.

Unfortunately Leinster's recent results have been so bad, with one league win from their last seven games, that they're not in a position to do that. This is because the two teams closest to Leinster, the Scarlets and Edinburgh have been on a good run of form that has seen them close the gap to Leinster to four and five points respectively. The Scarlets have won three out of their last four games and have very winnable games in the last two outings at home to Cardiff and away to Treviso. Edinburgh have also won three out of their last four games and are away to the Dragons before facing Leinster in Murrayfield in the final game of the season.

Not making the top four is a bad season by Leinster's recent standards but not making the top six and qualifying for the next season's Champions Cup could have disastrous ramifications for the province, especially financially. They could finish seventh and perhaps qualify through a convoluted play-off system between the English and French clubs but that doesn't even bear thinking about.

Hopefully this sober realisation will finally wake the team up to the fact that they need to perform at a much higher level for the final two games of the season. The good news is that their fate is still in their hands. If they beat Treviso tomorrow and either the Scarlets or Edinburgh lose, then they will be safe. However if all three teams win, then it could make for a tense final Saturday afternoon in Murrayfield next week.

Treviso won't roll over and die for Leinster like they did last season either. They're fighting a Euro qualification battle with Zebre to be the only Italian team in next season's Champions Cup. They gave Munster some trouble in their last outing, scoring three tries against them, and as they're only three points ahead of Zebre, they have plenty of motivation. They drew with Leinster back in November and it was a result that turned their season around somewhat.

Up until then, they had lost all their games in the league and looked an absolute shambles. Zebre looked in decent shape to finish ahead of them but Treviso managed to win both the derby games played over Christmas to take a lead over them. Since then, their only other win came against Cardiff but they'll fancy themselves against Leinster.

They've named Luca Morisi, who scored two tries against England in the Six Nations, in the centre alongside Enrico Bacchin. Jayden Hayward, Andrea Pratichetti and Ludovico Nitoglia make up a handy back three. Scrum-half Edoardo Gori, another player to have a fine Six Nations, is paired at half back with Sam Christie. They have a tough and experienced backrow in Kiwi number eight Mat Luamanu and flankers Nicola Cattina and Paul Derbyshire. Corniel Van Zyl captains the team from the second row alongside Marco Fuser. Rupert Harden, Davide Giazzon and Matteo Zanusso are the front row.

Leinster have to make do without two of the season's better players in Luke Fitzgerald and Sean Cronin, who have both had shoulder operations in the hope of being ready for the World Cup. Leinster have made five changes in all from the team that started against Ulster. Jack McGrath replaces the injured Cian Healy at loosehead and Jordi Murphy comes in at blindside flanker for Dominic Ryan.

Eoin Reddan gets the nod ahead of Isaac Boss at scrum-half and Dave Kearney comes in for Fitzgerald. Ian Madigan returns at inside centre in place of Gordon D'Arcy. It may or may not be D'Arcy's last game at the RDS, as it depends on whether he's picked in Ireland's World Cup squad, but in any case he will be presented with an award for his great service to the province after the game. Shane Jennings, who is currently out with concussion, will also be presented to the crowd before the game and both of these loyal servants will doubtlessly get a rousing reception from the crowd.

Hopefully the team will come up with a performance and a win to honour their great careers.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Benetton Treviso
Teams Rob Kearney 15 Jayden Hayward
Zane Kirchner
14 Andrea Pratichetti
Ben Te'o 13 Luca Morisi
Ian Madigan
12 Enrico Bacchin
Dave Kearney 11 Ludovico Nitoglia
Jimmy Gopperth 10 Sam Christie
Eoin Reddan 9 Edoardo Gori

Jack McGrath 1 Matteo Zanusso
Richardt Strauss 2 Davide Giazzon
Mike Ross 3 Rupert Harden
Devin Toner 4 Marco Fuser
Mike McCarthy 5 Corniel Van Zyl (C)
Jordi Murphy6 Paul Derbyshire
Sean O'Brien 7 Nicola Cattina
Jamie Heaslip (C)
8 Mat Luamanu

Replacements Aaron Dundon 16 Albert Anae
Michael Bent 17 Romulo Acosta
Tadhg Furlong 18 Salesi Manu
Tom Denton 19 Meyer Swanepoel
Jack Conan 20
Francesco Minto
Isaac Boss21 Marco Lazzaroni
Gordon D'Arcy 22 Angelo Esposito
Darragh Fanning 23 James Ambrosini

Not Considered
due to Injury
Edward Byrne,
Rhys Ruddock,
Kane Douglas,
Fergus McFadden,
Martin Moore,
David Kearney,
Luke Fitzgerald,
Sean Cronin,
Cian Healy

Officials Referee: Leighton Hodges (WRU, 51st competition game),
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, Ken Imbusch (IRFU),
Citing Commissioner: Eugene Ryan (IRFU),
TMO: Jude Quinn (IRFU)
Not considered due to Injury:

by Jim O'Connor, © 2015-05-07