Friday, April 13, 2018

Preview : Leinster v Benetton

Back in 2011 I penned a rant on these pages called 'What's In A Name?' about how I didn't see what all the fuss was over changing the name of Lansdowne Road to the Aviva Stadium.  

I felt the same about the recent transition from Donnybrook Stadium to Energia Park.  IMO the game needs sponsors so changing the official name isn't that much of a price to pay and besides, being a free country and all we can use whatever name tickles our fancy.

This morning it dawned on me that over the years I have been rather hypocritical when it comes to our opponents this weekend.  Whenever I went to type their name I have always put Treviso, and I have also held back from typing Toyota before the Cheetahs.  Time I began practising what I had been preaching methinks...their official name is Benetton Rugby this weather and call them that I shall.

You all seemed to enjoy the Zebre writeup, thanks for the feedback.  Being an evening kickoff this time around, I think my format will return to something more conventional, but when it comes to matters on the pitch, a similar outcome would do just fine.

Right now all roads in Leinster's 2017/18 campaign lead through the Scarlets - of course there's the big semifinal in two weeks' time, but even before that with the right results we can pip them to top spot in the Guinness Pro14 Conference B and the home semifinal/weekend off that goes with it.

This week they play their match before us, and their opposition are Richard Cockerill's Edinburgh.  Even if the champions win in Murrayfield, failure to get maximum points would mean we could sew up first place with a four-try victory of our own.

As a follower of our Facebook page pointed out as I posted the lineups at lunchtime, we can read a lot about next weekend's matchday 23 from this one, particularly in the halfback pairing.

Many have questioned Joey Carbery's lack of game time at out half, especially wearing blue, and I wonder will this put a bit of extra pressure on him to produce the goods on Saturday.  If so, that's definitely a good thing, although Ross Byrne could consider himself unfortunate should he miss out on the business end of the season.

Clearly Joey is being prepped for any potential involvement in the semifinal, though in the case of scrum half, I wonder if Gibson-Park's selection demonstrates the exact opposite...with Luke McGrath being rested and neither Fardy nor Lowe likely to be dropped, we may have opted to give Nick McCarthy more experience producing the goods from the bench.

Of course it's also great to see returnees to the squad from injury Sean O'Brien and Jordan Larmour.  I really hope Seanie can see out the season - it was tough watching him leave the field of play so early against the Ospreys and should that happen again it wouldn't look good at all.  But assuming the best, what a string for us to add to our bow at this time of year.

Jordan's not a bad addition either.  On a night when we're looking for tries aplenty, this is backline full of players well used to crossing the whitewash.  Barry Daly acquitted himself well at fullback last time out but given he is the league's joint-top try scorer along with Makazole Mapimpi
of the Toyota Cheetahs [10 each] it should suit him to go back to the wing.

There's also a lot of talent in the pack, but if I were to have any worry it would be that it has a bit of a 'thrown together' look about it compared to other outings.  Still though, they haven't let us down much this season so I don't see why this should be any different.

You might think Benetton would be considered more difficult opposition than Zebre yet the bookies have us winning by a similar margin, 31pts to be precise.  Again like last week I'll take one win, four tries and no injuries by any means necessary.  Since I got my prediction right last week for once, I'll try the same formula and add one to Mr P Power's spread - 32pt win.

Hope to see you there, and it's another chance to welcome back Ian McKinley to the RDS should he come off the Benetton bench.  As always we wish him all the best all the other times we takes to the field!  JLP

#COYBIB

Benetton : 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Andrea Bronzini, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Alberto Sgarbi (C), 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi
1 Federico Zani, 2 Luca Bigi, 3 Simone Ferrari, 4 Marco Lazzaroni, 5 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Federico Ruzza, 7 Sebastian Negri, 8 Nasi Manu
16 Engjel Makelara, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Irné Herbst, 20 Marco Fuser, 21 Dean Budd, 22 Ian McKinley, 23 Tommaso Benvenuti.

Guinness Pro14 2017/18 - Round 20
Saturday, April 14, 2018
KO 7:35pm 
RDS Arena

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)
AR1: Aled Evans (WRU)
AR2: Johnny Peek (IRFU)
TMO: Jon Mason (WRU)
TG4: 19:30

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