After their very impressive performance against the Dragons last weekend, Leinster must be brimming with confidence in terms of their overall ability, especially in attack. Leinster look to be back to their attacking best, similar enough to how they looked at this stage of the competition last season. Don’t worry, I know last season didn’t end well so I do think we are possibly in a better position this season! The most noticeable difference is the strength in depth which has been further deepened by more potential young stars, and a new signing from New Zealand. Their greatest strength at the moment is their ability to field very young/inexperienced teams with a fraction of the caps that the big guns have, yet still look highly cohesive, clinical, and most importantly, hungry! This gives Leo Cullen the opportunity to rest big players for big games, and in turn provide more valuable game time experience to the future stars. At this stage of the competition, I honestly don’t mind reading a match day team sheet from Leinster that is littered with less experienced players as I have every confidence that they’ll deliver while more seasoned players are rested or away on international duty. There is a lot more confidence in this team this season, and I think that is coming from Cullen and Lancaster. Look at the amount of new caps that have been awarded to academy players over the last 12 months, I can’t think of another team with such a massive pool of talent. Leinster, like the United States, is the land of opportunity!
Here is what the team looks like to take on Treviso tomorrow, KO 4:30pm:
15. Jordan Larmour
14. Dave Kearney
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Noel Reid
11. James Lowe
10. Ross Byrne
9. Luke McGrath CAPTAIN
1. Jack McGrath
2. James Tracy
3. Andrew Porter
4. Ian Nagle
5. Scott Fardy
6. Jordi Murphy
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Jack Conan
16. Seán Cronin
17. Ed Byrne
18. Vakh Abdaladze
19. Mick Kearney
20. Max Deegan
21. Nick McCarthy
22. Fergus McFadden
23. Rory O’Loughlin
The selection is quite different to the team that took to the field last weekend. There are a few returnees and a couple of debutantes.
Firstly, Dave Kearney is back in on the wing, with Jordan Larmour who was very impressive last week retaining the full back spot. Garry Ringrose has finally returned to the centre after recovering from a shoulder injury at the end of last season, it’s such great news and it’s coming at the right time with some very big games coming up. All eyes will be on this lad to see how he gets on in his first game of the season. Ringrose will be partnered by Noel Reid at 12 and this partnership was very solid last season, hopefully more of the same tomorrow.
We have a debut for our new signing on the other wing, James Lowe. This highly anticipated signing from the Super 15 team The Chiefs had a fantastic year last season and has been extremely impressive. He has been hailed as one of the best wingers in New Zealand at the moment and we are hoping that he can bring some of that explosive pace, and slick passing to the Leinster setup this season. Oh, and some tries too, which he seemed to score for fun throughout the year.
Luke McGrath is back in the lineup in the 9 jersey and will partner with last weeks’ man of the match Ross Byrne who retains his position at out half.
The pack from 1-8 will see 7 internationals take to the field of battle in Italy tomorrow.
On the bench, the most notable players are our very reliable and pacey hooker Sean Cronin, try scorer from last week Max Deegan, Fergus McFadden and a very solid replacement at scrum half, Nick McCarthy. We also have another debut for Leinster in the form of Vakh Abdaladze. Vakh is an impressive player who has come up through the Leinster academy and represented Clontarf and then Ireland in the last U20 World Cup. He will provide backup for Andrew Porter should his services be required.
Lets face it, Treviso has never truly threatened Leinster in the majority of their head to head games in the past. They’ve always been considered a team that you should come away with maximum points from.
However, this season, although theey’re not topping their conference by any means, Treviso is a very different animal. They are highly competitive and no team this season has managed to dismantle them like they would have been last year. To put this into perspective, this side very nearly defeated Ulster last weekend, only to be crushed by a late try from Andrew Trimble who’s team went on to win by a single point. Also, during this season’s Champions Cup, Treviso faced Toulon and had the game won on 79 minutes, only to concede a penalty to again lose by a single point. As a result, it’s clear that Treviso will be tough opponents on their home turf tomorrow and Leinster will need to be very wise to that. John Fogarty (Leinster scrum coach) highlighted a lot of the new caveats that comes with Treviso in an interview during the week and knows exactly the threat that they will bring. Treviso, with 3 wins from 9 this season, will very much relish the opportunity to face Leinster and show them what they’re now made of. Yes, this is Leinster we’re talking about, and yes, we have the better squad, better attacking threat, and superior mental strength to see out games, but, em, but, well………. Okay, we’ll be hugely shocked if Leinster don’t win this one and win it well, but we’ve seen complacency creep into this team in the past, let’s just hope that side of Leinster is well and truly gone!
Where the game will be won
I honestly do not feel that this game will be a walk in the part (for either side). It will be grueling for the first 40 minutes, and potentially for the first 20 of the second half too. The team that takes full advantage of their scoring opportunities when they’re available and can hold their nerve throughout, will win this one.
I think tries will be very important but unlike last weekend, a few penalties at key moments in this match will decide the outcome.
Defense will be a big focus for Leinster this week as we saw last week that Treviso like to go through huge amounts of phases and are excellent at protecting their ball in the ruck. This gives them a lot of forward momentum, and when they get into the opposition 22, they are very hard to stop, as was evident during the Treviso v Ulster game.
It may not be a pretty match tomorrow, nor will it be a try fest like last weekend, but I believe Leinster has a very strong team selection for Treviso and they will very much want to impress Leo Cullen with European rugby starting up again next week. Cheeky prediction, James Lowe to score a try on his debut and Luke McGrath to get man of the match.
First half will be a tight encounter, maybe 3-5 points being the difference between the sides. The second half will be slightly different, potentially an early try to settle the visiting side, then we might see a little daylight. I think Leinster will go all out in the second half and the scoreboard will flatter the away team on what will most likely be a very bruising encounter in Italy.
Treviso 13 – Leinster 29