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Leinster Rugby vs Zebre
Pro Rugby
RDS Arena, Dublin
Friday, 23rd October 2020, 20:35 (19:35 Irish time)

TV: Live on TG4/Eir Sports

Let's be grateful for small mercies first. At least we have rugby to watch this lockdown.

Yes it's Zebre at home on a weekend of a Six Nations championship. But it's still something to pass an evening and chat about with friends on WhatsApp even if we can't stand on a terrace together for the moment. Last time out Leinster had a good competitive outing against Benetton and for the second week running the Italians were very unfortunate to get no points from the game. Unfortunately the injury curse struck again and Jordan Larmour will be gone for four months. With the massive injury list and the players needed for Ireland duty, many Leinster fans would have been wondering if they could put out a decent 23 together for tomorrow evening's match.

As ever Zebre have begun the season looking to improve and they did have some decent moments last year under coach Michael Bradley. They began the season with two narrow enough defeats at home to Cardiff and away to the Dragons. Bradley has named a team with two former Leinster second rows Mick Kearney and Ian Nagle in the squad that's obviously missing a lot of players as well to international duty.

For Leo Cullen there is some good news of the injury front as a number of players return. Ciaran Frawley and Dave Kearney are fit to return to the backline. Frawley partners Liam Turner who will make his Leinster debut at outside centre with Tommy O'Brien on the right wing and Jimmy O'Brien at full back. Harry Byrne and Luke McGrath start at half back. In the pack Josh Murphy, Scott Penny and skipper Rhys Ruddock are the back row and Ross Molony and Devin Toner are in the boiler room. Peter Dooley is another player who makes a welcome return from injury to start at loosehead prop with Michael Bent at tighthead. Dan Sheehan has also recovered from injury and will make his first start at hooker. A big, powerful ball carrier, he made a strong impression for the A team last season so he will be worth keeping an eye on. Ciaran Parker and David Hawkshaw are two more players who'll make their debut if sprung from the bench.

The best news for Leinster fans though is the name of Dan Leavy on the bench. The openside flanker has had a hell of a time since rupturing his knee against Ulster 18 months ago. When fit he's arguably the best openside in the country so everyone will be hoping he can get back to his best.

It should be a nice enough night to come on late in a comfortable Leinster win.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Teams Jimmy O'Brien 15 Michelangelo Biondelli
Tommy O'Brien 14 Pierre Bruno
Liam Turner 13 Tommaso Boni (C)
Ciaran Frawley
12 Enrico Lucchin
Dave Kearney 11 Jamie Elliott
Harry Byrne 10 Paolo Pescetto
Luke McGrath 9 Nicolo Casilio

Peter Dooley 1 Paolo Buonfiglio
Dan Sheehan 2 Marco Manfredi
Michael Bent 3 Alexandru Tarus
Ross Molony 4 Mick Kearney
Devin Toner 5 Ian Nagle
Josh Murphy 6 Lorenzo Masselli
Scott Penny 7 Renato Giammarioli
Rhys Ruddock (C)
8 Jimmy Tuivaiti

Replacements James Tracy 16 Oliviero Fabiani
Michael Milne 17 Andrea Lovotti
Ciaran Parker 18 Matteo Nocera
Jack Dunne 19 Leonard Krumov
Scott Fardy 20 Samuel Ortis
Hugh O'Sullivan 21 Joshua Renton
David Hawkshaw 22 Antonio Rizzi
Dan Leavy 23 Junior Laloifi

Not Considered
due to Injury
Vakh Abdaladze,
Conor O'Brien,
Adam Byrne,
Tadhg Furlong,
Max Deegan,
Ryan Baird,
Ronan Kelleher,
Jordan Larmour,
Rory O'Loughlin

Iacopo Bianchi,
Tommaso Castello,
Massimo Ceciliani,
Giovanni Licata
Officials Referee: Craig Evans (WRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2020-10-22