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Zebre vs Leinster Rugby
Guinness Pro 14, Round 3
Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma
Saturday, 26th October 2019, 18:15 (17:15 Irish time)

TV: Live on Eir Sports

Another World Cup, another humiliation!

At least Ireland got to be humiliated against New Zealand, poor old Italy didn't even get the chance as their game against the Kiwis was cancelled. They would likely have been hammered too but it's hard to believe they could have played as poorly as Ireland did. Ireland went down without even throwing a punch. All their "positive" talk during the week turned out to be just empty bullshit as the heads dropped once the first mistake happened.

Joe Schmidt gave Leinster and Ireland some great days but that shouldn't make him immune to criticism. Joe's gameplan was always based on things going right. When the game went as Joe had scripted it, Ireland were nearly always successful. However when things didn't go to plan, Ireland had a habit of falling apart on and off the pitch and this didn't just happen in the last Six Nations campaign. Perhaps the saddest thing about Joe's Ireland career was how basic and unambitious the rugby had become in the end. Leinster played some dazzling rugby under Joe and it was a shame he made up his mind too early that at international level Ireland weren't capable of doing the same. By the end Ireland were playing such dull rugby that the players knew they hadn't a hope of beating the All Blacks which might explain such a tepid surrender.

The players need to take a long hard look at themselves too. Sure the All Blacks were brilliant last week but frankly they didn't need to be to beat a team with such a lack of basic skills. Some have sought to put all the handling errors down to the pressure the All Blacks exerted but Ireland were making similar handling errors against Japan, Russia and Samoa. They also spent most of the second half against Samoa playing a ridiculously physical pick and drive game when Samoa had proved how easy it was to score against them out wide. Then Joe sought to use the physical exertions in that game as an excuse for the non-performance last week. In any case both the fans and the media need to take a second before labelling any of our players as "World Class". Truly world class players turn up to play in World Cups and this is something none of our players have ever done in the last 28 years. The Southern Hemisphere giants will never really take Ireland seriously until they do.

Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster now have the job of assimilating a bunch of broken players (some literally) back into the squad. Four years ago the stink of the quarter-final defeat to Argentina wafted into the Leinster season resulting in a horrendous European campaign where they were knocked out at the pool stages having only won one game. Cullen has a job on his hands making sure the same doesn't happen again. Tomorrow evening Leinster are away in Italy again when they take on the winless Zebre. Zebre have conceded at least fifty points in each of their three defeats this season but are boosted tomorrow by the return of several players from the World Cup squad like their excellent out-half Carlo Canna. There's also the familiar face of former Leinster second row Mick Kearney who will be out to show Cullen he was wrong to let him go at the end of last season.

Cullen has made a number of changes to the team that beat Edinburgh two weeks ago. There's finally a first start for Cian Kelleher since he rejoined from Connacht in the summer. He comes in on the left wing and Adam Byrne starts on the right wing in the only changes to the back line. In the pack James Tracy and Ross Molony come to start in the front five and Josh Murphy starts at blindside flanker which means Max Deegan starts at number eight.

Zebre's internationals should improve them but Leinster should still have enough to make it four wins from four.

Team Lineups


Leinster Rugby
Teams Michelangelo Biondelli 15 Hugo Keenan
Edoardo Padovani 14 Adam Byrne
Giulio Bisegni 13 Rory O'Loughlin
Enrico Lucchin 12 Joe Tomane
Mattia Bellini 11 Cian Kelleher
Carlo Canna 10 Ross Byrne
Joshua Renton 9 Jamison Gibson-Park

Danilo Fischetti 1 Peter Dooley
Marco Manfredi 2 James Tracy
Giosue Zilocchi 3 Michael Bent
Mick Kearney 4 Ross Molony
George Biagi (C)
5 Scott Fardy (C)
Giovanni Licata 6 Josh Murphy
Johan Meyer 7 Scott Penny
David Sisi 8 Max Deegan

Replacements Oliviero Fabiani 16 Bryan Byrne
Daniele Rimpelli 17 Michael Milne
Alexandru Tarus 18 Vakh Abdaladze
Leonard Krumov 19 Ryan Baird
Renato Giammarioli 20
Caelan Doris
Marcello Violi 21 Hugh O'Sullivan
Tommaso Boni 22 Harry Byrne
James Elliott 23 Jimmy O'Brien

Not Considered
due to Injury
Francois Brummer,
Tommaso Castello,
Massimo Ceciliani,
Gabriele Di Giulio,
Maxime Mbanda,
Ian Nagle,
Jimmy Tuivaiti

Dan Leavy,
Ciaran Frawley,
Barry Daly,
Ed Byrne,
Jack Conan,
Sean Cronin
Officials Referee: Craig Evans (WRU),
Assistant Referees: Manuel Bottino (FIR), Chris Williams (WRU),
TMO: Jon Mason (WRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2019-10-26