Friday, October 10, 2014

Preview : Zebre v Leinster


ZEBRE : 15 David Odiete 14 Giulio Toniolatti 13 Tommaso Iannone 12 Gonzalo Garcia 11 Leonardo Sarto 10 Edward Padovani 9 William Palazzani
8 Samuela Vunisa 7 Philip Cristiano 6 Mauro Bergamasco 5 (c) Marco Bortolami 4 Quintin Geldenhuys 3 Dario Chistolini 2 Andrea Handles 1 Matias Aguero
BENCH : 16 Oliviero Fabiani 17 Andrea Lovotti 18 Luciano Leibson 19 Andries Ferreira 20 Valerio Bernabo 21 Luciano Orquera 22 Kelly Haimona 23 George Biagi

At Stadio XXV Aprile, 4pm local time (3pm Ireland) Live on Nuvolari
Referee: Neil Paterson (SRU, 63rd competition game)
Assistant Referees: Matteo Liperini, Francesco Russo (both FIR)
Citing Commissioner: Achille Reali (FIR)
TMO: Carlo Damasco (FIR)

**********

Leinster by 10+ points with 4+ tries and at least 1 for Noel Reid.

Normally I start writing these previews with no idea how I expect the match to turn out; I just talk myself into a prediction as I go through the team.  This week I feel I need to do something differently.

Because if I get myself bogged down too much by Zebre's recent form at home, Leinster's lack of it anywhere, and most of all the growing angry MOC-seeking mob, I'd be likely to say a home win has to be a guaranteed certainty.

Instead I decided to take a step back.  Even with Leinster's horrible start to the season (which some teams wouldn't consider quite so horrible I might add), the leading bookies still have us as favourites to win the league, and 2nd favourites behind Toulon to win the Champions Cup.

Yes, you read that right, the horrible, lacklustre, no-offence, mis-firing, loudmouth-coach-having Leinster are still tipped to turn things around with time to spare before the business end of the season.

Well - is that a mindset we can buy into?  I mean surely if the respectable gentlemen from the turf accounting sector shared our lack of faith they'd be tempting punters with more generous prices than 13/8 (Pro12) and 6/1 (RCC)?

So what I have decided to do this week is give what I think a regular Leinster SHOULD do this weekend and work from there.

What's that?  We should be beating the likes of Zebre by more than 10 you say?  Maybe I should explain what I mean by what I think we "should" do.  

As much as I hate the "Italian job" references every time we play this lot or Treviso, I do feel that there is a specific goal in mind whenever we play them, especially away from home - get the maximum of points with the minimum of effort.  For example if we have 4 tries at half time and still "just" the 4 tries plus a win at full time, you won't hear any complaints from me once I know reasonable care was taken to keep players back for Wasps next week.

Now before I harp on the starting lineup I have to give one caveat...are we SURE this is actually going to be the starting lineup?

I wasn't as surprised as many were about the last minute changes to Leinster's 23 at the Aviva against Munster.  Because more often than not the team announced on the Friday is not the team that takes to the field.  

And as much as some people like to pin stuff on Matt O'Connor, this 11th hour squad-changing goes back to the Joe Schmidt era right up to his final match in charge, namely the 2013 Pro12 final, when once again it was Rob Kearney involved in the late switch.  Having said that, if there was a name I'd be least inclined to expect in a Leinster jersey despite having been named, it would be Luke Fitzgerald.

But let's just say that all I can do in writing a preview is go with the team that has been announced.

Madigan at 10 - huzzah!  Looks like they read my writeup of the Munster match haha.  Boss at 9?  Erm....well, let's just say he needs to up his game.  Isaac CAN contribute to the side, he just hasn't so far this season.  Personally if Reddan is being held back because of player protection then I'd have started with Luke McGrath because I feel he and "the Mad-dog" would complement each other well at half-back.

But it's probably best we don't get too greedy - we have our out-half the way many of us want it so let's just hope it pays off enough for him to be kept there next week.  Of course, the return of Noel Reid to action has helped a lot with this, and in saying I expect him to cross the line I'm not trying to put pressure on him, rather I'm saying that with Madigan and D'Arcy either side of him there are bound to be chances.

In the pack I'm liking the "all-new" front row of Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss and Marty Moore; if they can settle quickly they should do well.  They should more than make up for the loss of ball-carrying the side will suffer with the exclusion of Sean Cronin who is certainly due a rest.

Hopefully Messrs McCarthy & Douglas can stay on the right side of the ref and though the back row is hardly the most experienced we can put out, after our display at the breakdown last week there has to be an overall improvement.

But more important than the actual names on the team sheet is the overall approach to the game.  Even if there are last-minute changes, we need to see a first quarter from Leinster which shows that some thought has gone into putting points on the board early.  Our trips to Glasgow and Galway saw a very limited gameplan with the ball, but even with Europe around the corner we have to show some early endeavour and with Gopperth showing indifferent form the Madigan switch could well provide it.

All of which leads me back to my original prediction.  I'm sticking with it - of course Zebre have individuals like Bortolami and Bergomasco in the pack and Sarto on the wing who can do some damage but the glass is still looking half full from where I'm sitting.

Sadly the match isn't on TV but don't forget that TG4 are running a "Rugbaí Beo" Pro12 highlights package on Saturday nights, this week's is at 11pm.

Also don't forget the A team who kick off their quest for a "three-peat" of B&I Cup titles at Plymouth, also on Saturday with a 3pm kickoff.

Plymouth Albion haven't exactly had an ideal start to the season - their record in the Championship is played 5, lost 5 and they got hockeyed 64-16 by London Scottish last weekend.  Included in their squad is former Munster, Exeter & Connacht flanker Eoghan Grace.

The Leinster A lineup : 15. Cian Kelleher 14. Sam Coghlan Murray 13. Rory O'Loughlin 12. Steve Crosbie 11. Adam Byrne 10. Ross Byrne 9. Nick McCarthy
1. Brian McGovern 2. Sean McCarthy 3. Oisin Heffernan 4. Tom Denton CAPTAIN 5. Gavin Thornbury 6. Ben Marshall 7. Peadar Timmins 8. Jordan Coghlan
Replacements 16. James Tracy 17. Ivan Soroka 18. Ross Molony 19. Josh Murphy 20. Adam Griggs 21. Tom Farrell 22. Billy Dardis

Although the match against Munster A didn't exactly go to plan, there were some positive and if the backline can set up Coghlan-Murray and Adam Byrne there should be some tries in it for them.  These matches are hard to predict as I know so little about the opposition but given Albion's standing in the Championship we should come out on top.

COYBIB!  JLP

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