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Leinster Rugby vs Aironi Rugby
RDS Showground, Dublin
Saturday, 1st October 2011, 18:00

Television: Not Televised

There was a terrible beauty about Leinster's win in Llanelli last week.

Sure the game itself was ugly as sin, error-strewn and dominated by the referee's whistle but forget the aesthetic quality and think about the character shown by the Leinster team. With 24 players unavailable, they'd every excuse to go through the motions and lose a difficult away tie. Certainly no one would have blamed them for doing so. However they bonded together and fought like men possessed to eke out a tight win. In a young team, the senior pro's like Isa Nacewa, Damian Browne and Heinke van der Merwe really stood up to be counted. The man of the match though was Richardt Strauss, who effectively played two positions at once (hooker and open-side flanker) and won countless turnovers on the deck.

After the pain of losing their proud home record to Glasgow the previous week, the win will have improved Joe Schmidt's humour no end. It puts him back on target to win four of their first six games, which is the minimum he would have expected at the start of the season. However to do that Leinster need to win their next two home ties and that won't be easy. An in-form Connacht team are targeting the game next week but first up is a tricky game against Aironi.

Aironi will also come into the match in good humour after winning their first match of the season last week at home to Edinburgh. It was only their second league win in the club's short history so it will have meant a lot. Their head coach Rowland Phillips has made five changes to the team that started last week, one of them positional. The big news is that South African Naas Olivier, who was Man of the match against Edinburgh, is rested. In fairness he have been ever-present so far this season so Tito Tebaldi moves to out-half and New Zealader Tyson Keats takes Tebaldi's place at number nine. The rest of the back line is unchanged from last week.

There are three changes in the pack. Two of them are in the back row, where former Italian international Josh Sole returns at blindside flanker in place of Franz Viljoen and Simone Favaro replaces Nicola Cattina at open side. Finally, Alberto De Marchi replaces Matias Aguero at loosehead prop. A name Leinster fans will recognise is their number eight Nick Williams. A former Munster player, he really seemed to relish getting stuck in at the match in the RDS last season, when he scored a try. In that match Aironi gave Leinster a real scare before the home team dug deep to win it, so they certainly won't take Aironi lightly. Even though they're missing ten players to the World Cup, it's still a decent side they've put out, especially up front as they will present a stern physical challenge as ever.

For Leinster Schmidt has named a starting lineup that shows five changes, one positional, from last week's first fifteen. In the backs, the only change is Noel Reid coming in to make his senior debut at out-half in place of Ian Madigan, who drops to the bench. It's a big ask for the young academy player, but with so many injuries in the position he's likely to be needed at some stage so probably better to give him a chance now with Madigan in reserve. Like Madigan, Reid is something of a mercurial talent, always looking to make things happen when he has the ball. He's got decent pace and good hands so it will be very interesting to see how he goes.

There are four changes in the pack. The good news is the return of Steven Sykes to make his competitive debut after suffering an injury in pre-season. The big South African goes straight into the second row in place of Damian Browne. At tight-head prop, Nathan White picked up a knock last week so Jamie Hagan returns to reclaim the position. The most interesting change sees Ciaran Ruddock called up to play at blind-side flanker which means his brother Rhys moves over to open-side in place of Jordi Murphy. Rhys is no open-side, so it effectively means Strauss will be double-jobbing again at the breakdown, but on the plus side Leinster won't be short of bulk in the back row which could come in handy against the Italians.

So it's another tough task for Leinster, but after the Glasgow defeat, they'll be desperate to put things right in front of the fans at the RDS. It probably won't be a thing of beauty again, but Joe Schmidt will be happy with another ugly win and this side should be able to provide it.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby

Aironi Rugby
Teams Isa Nacewa
15 Ruggero Trevisan
Fionn Carr
14 Sinoti Sinoti
Eoin O'Malley 13 Roberto Quartaroli
Luke Fitzgerald
12 Gabriel Pizarro
David Kearney 11 Giovanbattista Venditti
Noel Reid
10 Tito Tebaldi
Cillian Willis
9 Tyson Keats

Heinke van der Merwe 1 Alberto De Marchi
Richardt Strauss
2 Roberto Santamaria (C)
Jamie Hagan
3 Fabio Staibano
Steven Sykes 4 Joshua Furno
Devin Toner 5 George Biagi
Ciaran Ruddock 6 Josh Sole
Rhys Ruddock (C) 7 Simone Favaro
Leo Auva'a 8 Nick Williams

Replacements Jason Harris-Wright 16 Davide Giazzon
Jack McGrath 17 Matias Aguero
Jack O'Connell 18 Luca Redolfini
Damian Browne
19 Filippo Cazzola
Jordi Murphy
20 Filippo Ferrarini
John Cooney 21 Naas Olivier
Ian Madigan
22 Gilberto Pavan
Brendan Macken 23 Riccardo Pavan

Not Considered
due to Injury
Mat Berquist,
Eamonn Sheridan,
Shane Horgan,
Simon Shawe,
Andrew Conway,
Nathan White,
Tom Sexton,
Ben Marshall,
Kevin McLaughlin,
Dominic Ryan

Officials Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, Mark Hermin (both IRFU)
4th Official: Nigel Correll (Leinster Rugby Referees)
5th Official: Andrew Baird (Leinster Rugby Referees)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2011-09-30