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Zebre vs Leinster Rugby
Pro14 Conference B, Round 15
Stadio Zaffanella

Saturday, 16th February 2019, 15:30 (14:30 Irish time)

TV: Live on Eir Sports

Three week ago, when Leinster were last in action, Irish rugby was in a much sunnier mood.

Now though it's in a more uncertain place after a bad home defeat by England followed by a scratchy win in Scotland. But for Leinster it's business as usual as they have a three match run over the Six Nations period and they've been fortunate with the teams they're facing as they're three of the lowest placed in the competition. Over the next two Fridays in the RDS, they take on the two South African franchises in the Southern Kings (last in Conference B) and then the Cheetahs (second last in Conference A), But first up this Saturday is a trip to Italy to take on Zebre (last in Conference A) who have won just the three games this season.

Zebre have improved a little bit from last season though. They actually managed to beat Cardiff and Edinburgh at home earlier in the season and they also beat Bristol in the Challenge cup but their only wins since October have come against the Russian side Enisei-STM. Former Connacht coach Michael Bradley has struggled to turn an upturn in playing standards into results and he's up against it again this weekend. He's named a team with four Italian internationals in centre Giulio Bisegni, fly-half Carlo Canna and the two back rows Jimmy Tuivaiti and Maxime Mbanda.

For Leinster Leo Cullen once again has a lot of restrictions on who he can choose along with a lengthy injury list. But he's still named a decent side with Jack McGrath starting again at loosehead prop. Jack is looking to build back his fitness to stake a claim for retaking his Ireland place. He's named in a front row with James Tracy and Andrew Porter. Ross Molony and Scott Fardy are the second rows with Max Deegan named at openside in a back row with the returning Josh Murphy at blindside and Caelan Doris at number eight.

Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne are the halves with Conor O'Brien and Rory O'Loughlin continuing in the centre. Adam Byrne and Barry Daly are named on the wing with Dave Kearney at full back.

In truth Leinster's last performance at home to Scarlets was one of their poorest of the season. There was an odd lack of intensity and the handling errors were off the chart. They were really quite fortunate to win and had to rely on some frankly unbelievable mistakes from the Scarlets to do so. You can bet the coaching team has been on their backs since then to return to the normal standards and hopefully we'll see an improved performance and a comfortable enough win tomorrow afternoon.

Team Lineups


Leinster Rugby
Teams Francois Brummer 15 Dave Kearney
Gabriele Di Giulio 14 Adam Byrne
Giulio Bisegni 13 Rory O'Loughlin
Tommaso Boni 12 Conor O'Brien
James Elliott 11 Barry Daly
Carlo Canna 10 Ross Byrne
Joshua Renton 9 Jamison Gibson-Park

Daniele Rimpelli 1 Jack McGrath
Oliviero Fabiani 2 James Tracy
Giosue Zilocchi 3 Andrew Porter
Samuele Ortis 4 Ross Molony
George Biagi 5 Scott Fardy (C)
Maxime Mbanda 6 Josh Murphy
Jimmy Tuivaiti 7 Max Deegan
Giovanni Licata 8 Caelan Doris

Replacements Luhandre Luus 16 Bryan Byrne
Danilo Fischetti 17 Peter Dooley
Dario Chistolini 18 Michael Bent
Apisai Tauyavuca 19 Mick Kearney
James Brown 20
Jack Dunne
Riccardo Raffaele 21 Hugh O'Sullivan
Paula Balekana 22 Noel Reid
Nicolas De Battista 23 Jimmy O'Brien

Not Considered
due to Injury
Cruze Ah-Nau,
Mattia Bellini,
Massimo Ceciliani,
Renato Giammarioli,
Johan Meyer,
Matteo Minozzi,
Marcello Violi

Will Connors,
Fergus McFadden,
Joe Tomane,
Nick McCarthy,
Hugo Keenan,
Dan Leavy,
Luke McGrath,
Devin Toner,
Garry Ringrose,
Robbie Henshaw
Officials Referee: Ian Davies (WRU),
Assistant Referees: Marius Mitrea (FIR), Jason Morris (WRU),
TMO: Stefano Penne (FIR)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2019-02-21