Preview: Zebre v Leinster

Date published: February 7 2014

Leinster have been forced to name a make-shift backline for Sunday's Pro12 clash away to Zebre.

Leinster have been forced to name a make-shift backline for Sunday's Pro12 clash away to Zebre.

With 13 Leinster players named in the Ireland squad to face Wales in the Six Nations, coach Matt O'Connor has made a number of changes to his starting 15 from the team that took to the field against Connacht.

As always this has presented players with opportunities to stake a claim for a regular starting berth and Leinster Academy players Sam Coghlan-Murray and Tadhg Furlong get a chance on the left wing and at tight head respectively, while three other Leinster Academy players are named amongst the replacements.

O'Connor also welcomes back the experienced duo of Mike McCarthy and Jordi Murphy who were released from the Irish set up and are also named in the starting 15.

With Zane Kirchner switched from the right wing to full-back, Darragh Fanning comes in for only his seventh Leinster cap after a number of impressive performances for the Leinster 'A' team, while the aforementioned Coghlan-Murray takes his place on the opposite wing.

Brendan Macken gets a chance to impress at 13 with Noel Reid beside him in the centre, while John Cooney and Jimmy Gopperth are selected at 9 and 10 respectively with Gopperth only two points short of 150 career points for Leinster.

In the pack only Jordi Murphy is retained from the side that beat Connacht 8-16 in the Sportsground with Kevin McLaughlin and Shane Jennings also in the back row.

Michael Bent, Aaron Dundon and Tadhg Furlong pack down in the front row with the experienced duo of captain Leo Cullen and Mike McCarthy behind them.

More to follow…

Form: Zebre doubled their tally of victories in their history with their 14-12 win at home to Treviso in Round 12. They are now attempting to win back-to-back matches for the first time. Leinster's only defeat in their last seven matches in the PRO12 was 6-11 at Edinburgh on 20 December. The Leinstermen have actually won six of their last seven away fixtures in all tournaments, and have not lost to an Italian opponent since they visited Treviso in September 2010. Leinster have easily won their only two previous fixtures against Zebre with a combined score of 78-29, outscoring the Italians by ten tries to four.

The teams:

Zebre: 15 Ruggero Trevisan, 14 Giulio Toniolatti 13 Roberto Quartaroli, 12 Kameli Ratuvou, 11 David Odiete, 10 Kelly Haimona, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Andries van Schalkwyk, 6 Filippo Ferrarini, 5 George Biagi, 4 Emiliano Caffini, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Tommaso D'Apice, 1 Matias Aguero (c).
Replacements: 16 Lorenzo Giovanchelli, 17 Andrea de Marchi, 18 David Ryan, 19 Michael van Vuren, 20 Giacomo Bernini, 21 Alberto Chillon, 22 Giulio Bisegni, 23 Filippo Cristiano.

Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Darragh Fanning, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Sam Coghlan-Murray, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 John Cooney, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Leo Cullen (c), 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Aaron Dundon, 1 Michael Bent.
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Jack O'Connell, 18 Edward Byrne, 19 Tom Denton, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Darren Hudson.

Date: Sunday, February 9
Kickoff: 18:00 (local), 17:00 (GMT)
Venue: Stadio XXV Aprile
Referee: Neil Hennessy (Wales)
Assistant referees: Filippo Bertelli (Italy), Frencesco Russo (Italy)
Television match official: Carlo Damasco (Italy)
Citing Commissioner: Achille Reali (Italy)