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Leinster Rugby vs Benetton
Pro 14, Round 19
RDS Arena, Dublin
Saturday, 6th April 2019, 19:45

TV: Live on Eir Sports, TG4

Leinster progressed to the semi finals of the Champions Cup last week but Ulster made it a lot tougher than expected.

Ulster brought a surprising physicality to the mix, especially in defence and they deserve great credit for pushing Leinster to the wire. But when it mattered Leinster still had the nous and ability to get themselves over the line. Sadly the game also featured a horrendous injury to Dan Leavy and it's a devastating blow for a player who's never had much luck. It's also a big blow to Leinster and Ireland too at the World Cup. Toulouse now await in the semi final after their outstanding win over Racing in a crazy, wonderful game. While Leinster thumped them in a freezing cold RDS in January you would feel Toulouse will have learned from that game and the Aviva in April might be much more to their liking. And Wayne Barnes has just been announced as referee so Toulouse will have that on their side too.

Before that Leinster have their final two regular league games at the RDS against Glasgow next week and Benetton tomorrow. Both those teams will have considerably more motivation than Leinster who've already secured a home semi-final. Glasgow will be fighting to secure top spot in Conference A and Benetton will be scrapping like mad to keep their place in the top three in Conference B. They're three points ahead of Edinburgh and will likely need at least two wins from their last three games to make the play-offs.

Benetton have been one of the few bright spots for Italian rugby this season and they've become a genuinely tough side to beat. Last season they came to the RDS and won so Leinster would be wise not to take them for granted. Their head coach Kieran Crowley has named a strong team featuring internationals like Luca Morisi, Jayden Hayward, Sebastian Negri and Tommaso Allan who skippers the team from out-half.

For Leinster there are 13 changes with only Luke McGrath and Scott Fardy starting again this week. Barry Daly comes in at full back with Fergus McFadden on the right wing and James Lowe on the left. Australian international Joe Tomane is partnered in the centre by Mullingar man Conor O'Brien, with captain Luke McGrath and Noel Reid the half backs.

In the pack Jack McGrath begins his Leinster swansong alongside James Tracy and Andrew Porter in the front row with Mick Kearney and Scott Fardy in the second row. In the back row, Josh Murphy, Max Deegan and Caelan Doris complete the starting XV for Leo Cullen.

On the bench Scott Penny is included for the first time since starring for Ireland in their Grand Slam winning Under 20's Six Nations campaign.

It's not a particularly awe-inspiring Leinster selection truth be told and considering they have far more motivation to win, Benetton could well sneak this.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Benetton Rugby
Teams Barry Daly 15 Jayden Hayward
Fergus McFadden 14 Ratuva Tavuyara
Conor O'Brien 13 Marco Zanon
Joe Tomane 12 Luca Morisi
James Lowe 11 Monty Ioane
Noel Reid 10 Tommaso Allan (C)
Luke McGrath (C)
9 Dewaldt Duvenage

Jack McGrath 1 Nicola Quaglio
James Tracy 2 Luca Bigi
Andrew Porter 3 Marco Riccioni
Mick Kearney 4 Irne Herbst
Scott Fardy 5 Federico Ruzza
Josh Murphy 6 Sebastian Negri
Max Deegan 7 Abraham Steyn
Caelan Doris 8 Toa Halafihi

Replacements Bryan Byrne 16 Tomas Baravalle
Peter Dooley 17 Derrick Appiah
Michael Bent 18 Simone Ferrari
Jack Dunne 19 Marco Lazzaroni
Scott Penny 20
Giovanni Pettinelli
Hugh O'Sullivan 21 Tito Tebaldi
Ciaran Frawley 22 Antonio Rizzi
Jimmy O'Brien 23 Alberto Sgarbi

Not Considered
due to Injury
Dan Leavy,
Will Connors,
Devin Toner,
Robbie Henshaw,
Josh van der Flier,
Johnny Sexton,
Rory O'Loughlin

Ignacio Brex,
Dean Budd,
Angelo Esposito,
Hame Faiva,
Marco Fuser,
Ornel Gega,
Nasi Manu,
Federico Zani
Officials Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU),
Assistant referees: Ben Whitehouse (WRU), Gwyn Morris (WRU),
TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2019-04-05