Depleted Leinster facing a potentially tricky test at Treviso
Leo Cullen’s squad boosted by the return of likes of Dave Kearney, Mike Ross and Joey Carbery
Dave Kearney: returnes (following an ankle injury) to the Leinster team for the first time since October. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho r
Treviso v Leinster, Stadio Comunale di Monigo (12.30, Irish time)
The return of a couple of long-term injury victims in Dave Kearney and Mike Ross and the rehabilitation of Joey Carbery following an ankle issue is a timely fillip as the province face into games that will define their season.
Kearney (ankle) hasn’t played since a game against the Cardiff Blues in October while Ross returns after three months on the sidelines. Carbery’s enforced sabbatical dates back to the Champions Cup match against the Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens in December.
Rory O’Loughlin and Noel Reid form a St Michael’s midfield axis, Jamison Gibson Park is chosen at scrumhalf, Richardt Strauss leads the team for the first time in his 139th appearance while Mick Kearney and Ian Nagle get a chance in the secondrow.
Dominic Ryan joins Dan Leavy and Jack Conan in an athletic and mobile backrow. Ross and Carbery are among the replacements on a bench that also includes a number of players who have played several Leinster ‘A’ matches this season, including their captain, Peadar Timmins.
There will be a huge collective emphasis to guarantee the win but therein also an individual context; as the season gathers pace impressing in games of this ilk guarantees further chances down the line but the flip side applies too.
Winning in the Six Nations window is important to the Pro12 teams with playoff aspirations. Treviso, with Ian McKinley at outhalf, can field a strong side by their standards and unless Leinster are right on pitch mentally and physically, this could provide a sticky challenge.
BENETTON TREVISO: D Odiete; A Pratichetti, T Iannone, A Sgarbi (capt), L Sperandio; I McKinley, T Tebaldi; F Zani, L Bigi, T Pasquali; F Gerosa, T Paulo; M Lazzaroni, D Budd, R Barbieri. Replacements: D Giazzon, N Quaglio, M Zanusso, F Minto, G Zanini, E Francescato, M Tagicakibau, A Buondonno.
LEINSTER: Z Kirchner; A Byrne, R O’Loughlin, N Reid, D Kearney; R Byrne, J Gibson-Park; P Dooley, R Strauss (capt), M Bent; M Kearney, I Nagle; D Ryan, D Leavy, J Conan. Replacements: B Byrne, A Porter, M Ross, R Molony, P Timmins, L McGrath, J Carbery, B Daly.
Referee: D Jones (Wales)