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Leinster Rugby vs Benetton Treviso
Guinness Pro12 Round 22
RDS Showground, Dublin
Saturday, 6th May 2015, 15:00

Television: Not Televised

Well it's been coming. Leinster's embarrassing defeat against Ulster last week finally woke up people to the truth about their form. It's not very good and hasn't been for a while.

The attempts at attacking rugby have been so stilted, dull and unimaginative that it looks at times like Matt O'Connor never left. Girvan Dempsey took over at attack coach and admittedly there were some early season glimpses of promise in attack. However in the last two months, with the exception of one crazy half against Endinburgh, any invention in attack has largely evaporated. Leinster backs have gone back to type, running very obviously and laboriously into contact, mindlessly running some training ground move without thinking for themselves. Johnny Sexton is trying his best to create something and Ben Te'o makes the odd burst and offload but that's about it. The electric figure of Garry Ringrose from earlier in the season, when he played with his heads up and found gaps, has mostly gone too, perhaps due to burn-out or perhaps because the coaches have gotten into his head. Even if space is created, it rarely leads to a try as the current back three of Isa and the two Kearneys simply don't have the pace to take advantage of any gap that's created. Leinster backs rarely create anything and most disconcertingly, play like it isn't their job to do so either. Unlike the backs of Glasgow, Connacht and Ulster who we see trying to make things happen, Leinster backs play like it's their job to make no errors instead.

It's not just the backs though. Leinster's forwards haven't been great for a while now and their maul, which was so important when they last won the league, has become an insipid mess. How many times this season have we seen Leinster fail miserably when they kick to corner? Either they screw up the line-out or there's simply no snap to the maul itself and it's too easy to defend. The Ulster pack were there for the taking last week, and Leinster did win some scrum penalties, but they couldn't make some decent possession count because of their useless maul and their toothless attack. So Leo Cullen and John Fogarty as the main forwards coaches aren't exactly pulling up stumps either.

The only reason Leinster are still in contention this season is because of Kurt McQuilkin's defence, pointedly the only experienced coach in the group. And even that has been somewhat tarnished by conceding six tries in the last two games. But the defence has put Leinster in the position of being able to secure a home semi-final should they beat Treviso tomorrow. Even that can't be taken for granted though as Treviso finally showed some spirit last week in fighting back from 14-0 to beat Connacht. That win put them a point ahead of Zebre in their battle to be Italy's only team in the Champions Cup next season, but with Zebre at home to Dragons, they still could need more points to secure it. Treviso have made four changes to that side with Tommaso Iannone and Luke McLean coming into the backline and Paulo Wire and Marco Fuser coming into the pack. Leo Cullen makes four changes as well with Eoin Reddan coming in at scrum-half and Mike Ross, Mick Kearney and Jordi Murphy coming into the pack.

It was good to see some angry words from Johnny Sexton during the week demanding improvement from both his team-mates and for Leinster as a whole organisation. The response should probably be enough to beat Treviso tomorrow and secure a home semi-final. The prospects of advancing further than a semi-final look fairly grim at this point though, as do the long-term prospects for this coaching ticket.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Benetton Treviso
Teams Rob Kearney
15 Jayden Hayward
Isa Nacewa (C)
14 Ludovico Nitoglia
Garry Ringrose
13 Tommaso Iannone
Ben Te'o 12 Alberto Sgarbi
Dave Kearney
11 Angelo Esposito
Johnny Sexton
10 Luke McLean
Eoin Reddan
9 Edoardo Gori

Jack McGrath 1 Matthew Zanusso
Richardt Strauss 2 Ornel Gega
Mike Ross 3 Simone Ferrari
Devin Toner
4 Marco Fuser
Mick Kearney 5 Paulo Wire
Rhys Ruddock
6 Francesco Minto
Jordi Murphy 7 Alessandro Zanni (C)
Jamie Heaslip
8 Abraham Steyn

Replacements Sean Cronin 16 Luke Bigi
Peter Dooley 17 Matthew Muccignat
Tadhg Furlong 18 Salesi Manu
Ross Molony
19 Marco Lazzaroni
Dominic Ryan 20
Andrea De Marchi
Luke McGrath
21 Alberto Lucchese
Cathal Marsh 22 James Ambrosini
Noel Reid
23 Enrico Bacchin

Not Considered
due to Injury
Edward Byrne,
Tom Farrell,
Marty Moore,
Royce Burke-Flynn,
Gavin Thornbury,
Jack Conan,
Sean O'Brien,
Mike McCarthy,
Luke Fitzgerald,
Josh van der Flier,
Ian Madgian

Robert Barbieri,
Marco Barbini,
Dean Budd,
Alberto De Marchi,
Philip Filippetto,
Jeff Montauriol,
Luca Morisi,
Duncan Naude,
Tom Palmer,
Andrea Pratichetti,
Roberto Santamaria,
Cherif Traore
Officials Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU, 23rd competition game),
Assistant Referees: TBC
Citing Commissioner: John Cole (IRFU),

by Jim O'Connor, © 2016-05-06