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Leinster Rugby vs Zebre
Guinness Pro14, Conference B, Round 19
RDS Showground, Dublin,
Saturday, 7th April 2018, 14:00

TV: Live on TG4

Leinster did the business against Saracens and are in the Champions Cup semi-final in two weeks time.

The minute you saw them open Saracens up so easily for the first try, you had the feeling this was going to be a good day. Saracens are still a good team but they're not what they were, especially in defence, but Leinster took advantage ruthlessly in a knock-out fifteen minutes after half-time. They were possibly guilty of trying to see the game out too early leading to a nervier last ten minutes that was necessary however it was a great performance and a great win.

But they've got to put Europe to the back of their minds now and concentrate on topping their Pro14 conference to get a home semi-final. They have two home matches against Italian opposition in consecutive weeks. But this isn't as handy a number as it would have been last season. Both the Italian teams have been more competitive this term. Benetton are just one point behind Ulster in fifth place in Conference B with nine wins out of eighteen games. Zebre meanwhile are still bottom of Conference A but they have four wins to their name including a home win over Ulster and a double over Connacht.

In Matteo Minozzi they have one of the future stars of European rugby. He burned Jordan Larmour at the Aviva stadium and he helped himself to four tries and was arguably the full back of the Six Nations championship. He's named in a team along with two other form backs from the Six Nations in wing Mattia Bellini and out-half Carlo Canna. Dario Chistolini makes his 100th appearance at prop and George Biagi captains the team from the second row.

For Leinster it's about shuffling the squad and seeing who to rest. Rather surprisingly, four of the starting pack start again in man of the match Dan Leavy plus Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong and Devin Toner, who captains the team for the first time. James Tracy, Mick Kearney, Josh Murphy and Max Deegan all come in to start in the pack. In the backs only James Lowe retains his jersey as Ross Byrne and Jamison Gibson-Park come in at halfback and Rory O'Loughlin and Conor O'Brien in the centre with Barry Daly and Adam Byrne completing the back three with Lowe. And in a move that will make certain readers feel very old indeed Gavin Mullin, son of eighties/nineties legend Brendan, will make his debut when called from the bench.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Teams Barry Daly 15 Matteo Minozzi
Adam Bryne
14 Gabriele Di Giulio
Rory O'Loughlin
13 Giulio Bisegni
Conor O'Brien
12 Faialaga Afamasaga
James Lowe 11 Mattia Bellini
Ross Byrne 10 Carlo Canna
Jamison Gibson-Park 9 Marcello Violi

Cian Healy 1 Andrea Lovotti
James Tracy 2 Oliviero Fabiani
Tadhg Furlong 3 Dario Chistolini
Devin Toner (C)
4 Leonard Krumov
Mick Kearney 5 George Biagi (C)
Josh Murphy 6 Valerio Bernabo
Dan Leavy 7 Jacopo Sarto
Max Deegan 8 David Sisi

Replacements Bryan Byrne 16 Roberto Tenga
Peter Dooley 17 Andrea De Marchi
Vakh Abdaladze 18 Cruze Ah-Nau
Ross Molony 19 Eduardo Bello
Peadar Timmins 20
Luhandre Luus
Nick McCarthy 21 Guglielmo Palazzani
Ciaran Frawley 22 Serafin Bordoli
Gavin Mullin 23 Giovanbattista Venditti

Not Considered
due to Injury
Tom Daly,
Josh van der Flier,
Robbie Henshaw,
Caelan Doris,
Cathal Marsh,
Will Connors,
Sean O'Brien,
Dave Kearney,
Noel Reid,
Jack Conan,
Jordan Larmour

Officials Referee: Ian Davies (WRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2018-04-06