by Emma McGarry
No home comforts for Leinster this weekend, as they travel to take on Zebre in Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi looking for a 3rd consecutive victory to put them at the top of the Pro12 table ahead of current leaders Connacht.
Amidst the excitement of renewed contracts and the new signings of Robbie Henshaw and former Munster lock Ian Nagle, Leinster have kept their heads down and worked hard to find some improvement in their table position. While they lack accuracy and discipline at times, 2nd place on the Guinness Pro12 table with a little over 3 months until the final really isn’t bad going.
Zebre’s most recent match against Leinster in the RDS was a pretty dismal affair for the Italian team, finishing 52 - 0 to the home side. The match was effectively over by halftime. 8 tries and 0 points conceded is ideal for the boys in blue, but against a struggling, under developed team it can only be so impressive. Leo Cullen will be looking for Leinster to pull away as early in the match as possible and continue on some newly found form. Leinster are not pretty or incredibly entertaining at the moment but another win should inject a bit more confidence into what will be a largely inexperienced starting XV.
Young academy talents Adam Byrne, Cathal Marsh and Cian Kelleher continue to shine, undoubtedly benefiting from the presence of senior players who are adopting mentoring roles within the squad. Isa Nacewa being but one of them. Each has proved that inexperience at senior level does not necessarily hinder their game. In fact it gives them certain advantages; high fitness levels, pace and a new vision for Leinster Rugby. These always combine to make 6 Nations time an exciting one for the province and it’s younger players breaking through during the absence of the internationals.
Leinster are not far off where they want to be, it is obviously a slow process but Cullen has fared well thus far in his role as Head Coach. (Better than Matt O’Connor anyway…)
Kurt McQuilkin confirmed on Wednesday that Dave Kearney (shoulder) and Sean O'Brien (hamstring) are undergoing rehab on their injuries with Leinster but that there is no return date for either player as of yet. There was some good news however with 18 contract renewals and 2 new signings for the province.
McQuilkin: "Leo Cullen and Guy Easterby will still be looking around to see who's out there, but we're happy with what we've got too. It's good to get a few signatures down on paper. Henshaw in particular, a great player coming to the province. It's good to see."
It certainly is.
ZEBRE : 15 Mils Muliaina 14 Giulio Toniolatti 13 Tommaso Boni* 12 Matteo Pratichetti 11 Kayle Van Zyl 10 IAN McKINLEY 9 Fabio Semenzato
1 Bruno Postiglioni 2 Oliviero Fabiani 3 Guillermo Roan 4 Quintin Geldenhuys 5 Marco Bortolami (cap) 6 Jacopo Sarto 7 Federico Ruzza* 8 Johan Meyer
BENCH : 16 Gabriele Morelli 17 Andrea De Marchi 18 Pietro Ceccarelli 19 Gideon Koegelenberg 20 Emiliano Caffini 21 Luke Burgess 22 Maicol Azzolini 23 Ulrich Beyers
Guinness Pro 12 2015/16 Round 16
At Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, 4pm local time, (3pm Ireland & UK).
Live on Sky Sports and RAI Sport
Referee: Leighton Hodges (WRU, 55th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Matteo Liperini, Ricardo Angelucci (both FIR)
Citing Commissioner: Francesco Grillo (FIR)
TMO: Stefano Penne (FIR)
Emma McGarry (@EmmaKMcGarry) - Hugely interested in all aspects of rugby. Supporter of Irish and Leinster Rugby. "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad" - Brian O'Driscoll
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