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Benetton Treviso vs Leinster Rugby
Guinness Pro12 Round 14
Stadio Monigo, Treviso,
Sunday, 12th February 2017, 13:30 (12:30 Irish Time)
Television: Another Italian blackout, I'm afraid.

It seems a long, long time ago since we last previewed a Leinster match. Then, we were buzzing off the high of Leinster's demolition of Montpellier. Leinster looked well placed to finish as top seeds if they won in Castres and then we had a potential Grand Slam with Ireland to look forward to. Well the Grand Slam is gone and Leinster's very sketchy performance when drawing in France burst that bubble of optimism too. The rather fortunate draw they earned was just about enough to earn a home draw against Wasps, but it could have been a lot better. But it could serve to bring expectations back down to earth a little and now Leinster need to get their focus back on the Pro 12.

The games during the Six Nations when internationals are away can have a massive bearing when it comes to the end of the season. Only two seasons ago, a disastrous run of results during the Championship saw Leinster fail to finish in the play-offs for the first time since their introduction. This time, the fixture list has been reasonably kind to Leinster with away fixtures to Treviso and the Dragons plus home ties against Edinburgh, Llanelli and Cardiff. Leinster need to get at least four out of five wins here, especially as their final four league games feature three tricky away trips to Connacht, Ulster and Ospreys.

Treviso lie second from bottom in the table with just two wins over fellow strugglers Zebre and Dragons to their name. The Challenge Cup wasn't a whole lot better for them, with two wins from six pool matches seeing them eliminated. Their coach Kieran Crowley has picked a team with some notable names in the pack in Robert Barbieri, Dean Budd and Teofilo Paulo. Former Leinster player Ian McKinley partners Tito Tebaldi at halfback and Alberto Sgarbi captains the team from the centre.

For Leinster, their team selection sees the return of some long-term injury victims in Dave Kearney, Mike Ross and Joey Carbery. The last two have to make do with spots on the bench while Kearney comes in to start in a back three with Zane Kirchner and Adam Byrne. Rory O'Loughlin moves to the centre where he partners Noel Reid. Ross Byrne and Jamison Gibson-Park are the halves. In the pack, Richardt Strauss captains the team for the first time and he has Peter Dooley and Michael Bent packing down either side of him. Mick Kearney and Ian Nagle are in the engine room and Dominic Ryan, Dan Leavy and Jack Conan make up a powerful back row.

In their first match of the season, Treviso genuinely put it up to Leinster and made them sweat until a late James Tracy try sealed the match. It looked like Crowley might have given them a bit of sand finally but the results since then have shown that not to be the case. Treviso will put themselves about a bit but Leinster should come through comfortably in the end.

Finally, it will be Leinster's first game since the death of the Professor Arthur Tanner who sadly passed away last week. Prof Tanner, as he was known, was Leinster's team doctor for most of the professional era until his retirement in 2014. He was a massive part of what made Leinster successful, a brilliantly talented surgeon, a true rugby man and most of all, a warm and compassionate human being. Anyone who was lucky enough to make his acquaintance will tell of a true gentleman with a sharp wit and time for everyone. Our deepest sympathies to his wife Ann and all his family and friends from everyone at Leinsterfans.

LEINSTER (Leinster caps in brackets):

15. Zane Kirchner (78)

14. Adam Byrne (14)

13. Rory O'Loughlin (14)

12. Noel Reid (74)

11. Dave Kearney (107)

10. Ross Byrne (14)

9. Jamison Gibson-Park (18)

1. Peter Dooley (29)

2. Richardt Strauss CAPTAIN (138)

3. Michael Bent (77)

4. Mick Kearney (16)

5. Ian Nagle (7)

6. Dominic Ryan (109)

7. Dan Leavy (29)

8. Jack Conan (42)

16. Bryan Byrne (15)

17. Andrew Porter (5)

18. Mike Ross (144)

19. Ross Molony (34)

20. Peadar Timmins (4)

21. Luke McGrath (65)

22. Joey Carbery (12)

23. Barry Daly (5)

Not considered due to Injury: Jordi Murphy, James Ryan, Fergus McFadden, Sean Cronin, Rhys Ruddock, Tom Daly, Jeremy Loughman


15 David Odiete

14 Andrea Pratichetti

13 Tommaso Iannone

12 Alberto Sgarbi (C)

11 Luca Sperandio

10 Ian McKinley

9 Tito Tebaldi

8 Robert Barbieri

7 Dean Budd

6 Marco Lazzaroni

5 Teofilo Paulo

4 Filippo Gerosa

3 Tiziano Pasquali

2 Luca Bigi

1 Federico Zani


16 Davide Giazzon

17 Nicola Quaglio

18 Matteo Zanusso

19 Francesco Minto

20 Guglielmo Zanini

21 Enrico Francescato

22 Michael Tagicakibau

23 Andrea Buondonno

Referee: Dan Jones (WRU, 3rd competition game)

Assistant Referees: Rhys Thomas (WRU), Andrea Spadoni (FIR)

Citing Commissioner: Stefano Marrama (FIR)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2017-02-16