Friday, October 26, 2018

Preview : Benetton v Leinster

So we're 8 matches into the new season.  Leinster have won 6 by an average margin of over 23 points.  We have lost 2 by an average of 1.5 points. Just in case you think you have a speck of dust on your keyboard, that actually does read one point five.
So not a bad start by most team's standards. Of course we have shown things we need to work on, with the lineout definitely high on the list, but overall particularly on defence we have set high standards no matter what XV we have had on the pitch.

Now we are entering an interesting stretch of matches. Having just played in the South of France, we now head to the North of Italy and as if that's not enough travel, our next stop is all the way down in the Eastern Province of South Africa. That has to be a record amount of travelling in three successive matches for one European club? But one thing is for sure…even with all the air miles it is still a great opportunity for us to consolidate our position at the top of Conference B with Ospreys at home and Dragons away to follow before European fixtures return.

And it's quite an interesting selection we're sending to Treviso. Despite the Ireland squad for November being only a couple of days in or minds there's a surprising amount of top names involved.

Top of the list is Rob Kearney and isn't great to see him back so soon… we were getting too used to his injury spells being long term. I have to assume he's slated to start against the All Blacks and this is a perfect chance for him to prove his fitness.

Next there's Adam Byrne. One of many who exploded on to the Leinster scene before a combination of injuries, visible flaws in his game, and others showing form in his place knocked him back.

Watching him in the Celtic Cup it was clear that he had abilities well above that level but now would be a good time to start showing it. He has a particular knack for retrieving a high ball so with Ross Byrne the provider there could well be opportunities for him.

On the opposite wing there's Joe Tomane. It was as easy as I was harsh to make him a scapegoat for the Toulouse defeat but it is hard to argue that on more than one occasion the flow of Leinster's moves have broken down on reaching himself. The only thing that will help him is game time.

In the pack, Sean O’Brien wears the captain's armband as well as the 6 jersey, two roles that will come naturally to him. Meanwhile Scott Fardy… remember him? He lines up in the second row alongside the guy who seems to have leapfrogged him, James Ryan. Together they make a formidable pair for us in loose play and whatever about our own lineout challenges, we could be on for a steal or two as well.

Interesting to see Hugh O'Sullivan on the bench. Both he and Paddy Patterson impressed in the Celtic Cup and with Nick Mccarthy moving on, they'll definitely need matches like this for cameos, and hopefully Mr Gibson-Park can help get us in a good position where we can afford to give him one.

When it comes to our opponents, well I have seen a lot more of them than I normally would have at this stage of the season and I have to say Kieran Crowley has them playing some rugby that gets good results  (like one from last April of which we won't speak). In Tavuyara & Ioane they have powerful wingers and if we can't contain them for 80 minutes they can do a lot of damage.

I'll be curious to see how they organise themselves against us. Will they play their normal game and try to create openings for their wingers or will Crowley take a page from the Toulouse play book and do what he can to throw us off our game. If he does the latter and it succeeds it really will resonate throughout Europe and we'll be under real pressure to get back to the drawing board.

But overall despite last weekend's setback I can't help but be positive about this upcoming sequence of games. With Furlong and Porter locking down the scrums, plenty of carriers and tacklers, and Leavy there to poach, once we can avoid the lineout wobbles I'm thinking we can live up to the bookies ambitious spread for an away win of 18 points. But I'd be happy with a smaller margin if it meant maximum points and fewer injuries. JLP


Also this weekend I should be mostly watching... #ULSvDRA #OSPvCON #NZLvAUS #KINvSCA & #MUNvGLA

Benetton : 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Alberto Sgarbi (C), 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Antonio Rizzi, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage,
8 Marco Barbini, 7 Michele Lamaro, 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Irné Herbst , 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Derrick Appiah.
Bench : 16 Tomas Baravalle, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Simone Ferrari, 19 Alessandro Zanni, 20 Marco Lazzaroni, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Tommaso Iannone, 23 Angelo Esposito
Guinness Pro 14 2018/19 Round 7
Satuday, October 27, 2018
KO :3pm (Irish time)
Stadio Monigo

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)
AR1: Craig Evans (WRU)
AR2: Andrea Spadoni (FIR)
TMO: Alan Falzone (FIR)


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019