Dan Leavy to make first Leinster start since March 2019

Date published: November 15 2020

The PRO14 continues on Monday as three games take place with Zebre, Cardiff Blues and Leinster hosting Ulster, Benetton and Edinburgh respectively.

Zebre v Ulster

Gabriele Di Giulio will start against Ulster in the sixth round of the PRO14 on Monday.

The 26-year-old suffered a serious injury in April 2019, but has recovered to take his place in the back three alongside Michelangelo Biondelli and Pierre Bruno.

Zebre head coach Michael Bradley has also recalled Renato Giammarioli and Mick Kearney, who were both forced to miss the away match against the Scarlets.

They are still without 14 players, however, who were called up by Italy boss Franco Smith for the Autumn Nations Cup.

Meanwhile, Tommaso Boni and Paolo Buonfiglio will miss the contest, despite initially being included in the team announced for the match against the Scarlets.

For Ulster, Marcell Coetzee will make his 50th appearance as he is named in the starting back-row alongside Greg Jones – making his first start this season – and Jordi Murphy.

The starting front-row of Eric O’Sullivan, John Andrew and Marty Moore from last week versus Glasgow is retained, while Alan O’Connor returns to the starting line-up and will partner Sam Carter, who captains the side from the second-row.

Academy back three player, Ethan McIlroy, is handed his first start for Ulster on the left wing and is joined by Craig Gilroy on the right and Michael Lowry at full-back.

Stewart Moore and Luke Marshall have retained the midfield starting berths. Bill Johnston and Alby Mathewson will form the starting half-back pairing.

Adam McBurney, Andrew Warwick, Gareth Milasinovich, David O’Connor and Sean Reidy provide pack options off the bench, and David Shanahan, Ian Madigan and Rob Lyttle offer backline reinforcement.

The teams:

Zebre: 15 Michelangelo Biondelli, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Giulio Bisegni (c), 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Gabriele Di Giulio, 10 Antonio Rizzi, 9 Joshua Renton, 8 Lorenzo Masselli, 7 Renato Giammarioli, 6 Nardo Casolari, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Leonard Krumov, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Marco Manfredi, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Massimo Ceciliani, 17 Riccardo Brugnara, 18 Alexandru Tarus, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 Antoine Koffi, 21 Nicolò Casilio, 22 Paolo Pescetto, 23 Junior Laloifi

Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stewart Moore, 11 Ethan McIlroy, 10 Bill Johnston, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Greg Jones, 5 Sam Carter (c), 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 John Andrew, 1 Eric O’Sullivan
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 David O’Connor, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Rob Lyttle

Venue: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Kick-off: 19:00 local (18:00 GMT)
Referee: Ben Whitehouse
Assistant referees: Manuel Botino, Matteo Liperini
TMO: Stefano Penne

Cardiff Blues v Benetton

John Mulvihill has received a triple fitness boost as he makes eight changes for Cardiff Blues’ PRO14 clash with Benetton.

James Botham, Jarrod Evans and Willis Halaholo all return to the starting line-up following short-term injuries.

Four changes come in the pack with Corey Domachowski returning to the front-row and Scott Andrews making his first start of the season.

Ben Murphy partners Rory Thornton in a sizeable second-row, while Botham returns to the number seven jersey with Olly Robinson switching to the blindside and Josh Turnbull to number eight.

In the backs, Evans forms a new look partnership with Jamie Hill, who makes his first PRO14 start.

Halaholo combines with Garyn Smith, who makes his 100th appearance for the region, in the midfield. Matthew Morgan also returns to the starting line-up in a back three containing Hallam Amos and Owen Lane, who reaches a half century.

Kristian Dacey continues to lead the side, with club captain Ellis Jenkins continuing on the comeback trial.

Keiron Assiratti also returns and is included for the first time since he picked up an ankle injury while on loan to Bristol Bears in September.

The tighthead prop successfully returned for action in the recent Cardiff Blues A victory over Dragons A, having previously made 39 senior appearances.

Meanwhile, Benetton return to the field after more than three weeks off following the postponed matches against Connacht and Munster.

Kieran Crowley is without 11 players due to international call-ups, but they can still pick an experienced back three with Jayden Hayward, Ratuva Tavuyara and Monty Ioane all starting.

At centre are Ignacio Brex and the recalled Joaquin Riera, while the half-backs see Ian Keatley and Callum Braley combine.

The scrum is anchored by props Nicola Quaglio and Filippo Alongi, with hooker Hame Faiva in the middle.

In the engine room, Federico Ruzza and Eli Snyman start, while the pack is completed by Giovanni Pettinelli, Manuel Zuliani and number eight Toa Halafihi.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Jamie Hill, 8 Josh Turnbull, 7 James Botham, 6 Olly Robinson, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Ben Murphy, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Kristian Dacey (c), 1 Corey Domachowski
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Keiron Assiratti, 19 James Ratti, 20 Alun Lawrence, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Ben Thomas, 23 Aled Summerhill

Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Joaquin Riera, 12 Nacho Brex, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Manuel Zuliani, 6 Giovanni Pettinelli (c), 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Federico Ruzza, 3 Filippo Alongi, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Nicola Quaglio
Replacements: 16 Tomas Baravalle, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Irné Herbst, 20 Michele Lamaro, 21 Marco Barbini, Luca Petrozzi, 23 Angelo Esposito

Venue: Rodney Parade
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Frank Murphy
Assistant referees: Adam Jones, Dan Jones
TMO: Ian Davies

Leinster v Edinburgh

The Leinster team to face Edinburgh at the RDS Arena has been announced, with Dan Leavy set to make his first start since March 2019.

Rhys Ruddock will captain the side again from number eight after back-to-back Guinness Player of the Match performances.

He will be joined in the back-row by Leavy who makes his first start for almost 20 months, while Ryan Baird has also returned from an adductor injury to take his place on the bench.

There are also three players from the Leinster academy in the matchday 23 with Liam Turner, Michael Milne, and David Hawkshaw all included.

It’s as you were last week in the back three with Jimmy O’Brien at full-back, Cian Kelleher on the right wing, and Dave Kearney on the left.

It’s a new centre pairing this week with both Tommy O’Brien and Rory O’Loughlin missing out through injury so Ciarán Frawley is joined by academy back Turner in the centre.

Luke McGrath and Harry Byrne are again in the half-backs together.

In the pack, it’s a front-row of Peter Dooley, James Tracy and Michael Bent, while in the second-row Devin Toner is joined by Scott Fardy.

Finally, in the back-row, Ruddock and Leavy are joined by Scott Penny, while on the bench Ryan Baird will make a welcome return from injury for hopefully his first outing since starting against Benetton in Round Two.

Meanwhile, prop Pierre Schoeman makes his 50th Edinburgh appearance as lock Andrew Davidson returns from injury for the PRO14 encounter.

The inclusion of Davidson in the second-row is the only alteration to an otherwise unchanged starting XV as head coach Richard Cockerill sticks with the same side that claimed an 18-0 win against Cardiff Blues last Monday night.

Schoeman – who once again starts at loosehead prop – becomes the 93rd Edinburgh player to reach 50 appearances for the club, and does so having only missed seven first team matches since making his debut in August 2018.

In the current squad, only WP Nel has reached the accolade quicker, with the tighthead hitting 50 appearances in a window of 54 games played.

The capital side remain without 21 players due to injury and international selection, while stand-off Jaco van der Walt continues his quarantine period after returning from South Africa last week.

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Jimmy O’Brien, 14 Cian Kelleher, 13 Liam Turner, 12 Ciarán Frawley, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Rhys Ruddock (c), 7 Scott Penny, 6 Dan Leavy, 5 Scott Fardy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Michael Bent, 2 James Tracy, 1 Peter Dooley
Replacements: 16 Dan Sheehan, 17 Michael Milne, 18 Ciarán Parker, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Josh Murphy, 21 Hugh O’Sullivan, 22 David Hawkshaw, 23 Ryan Baird

Edinburgh: 15 Jack Blain, 14 Eroni Sau, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Chris Dean, 11 Jamie Farndale, 10 Nathan Chamberlain, 9 Henry Pyrgos (c), 8 Ally Miller, 7 Luke Crosbie, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Andrew Davidson, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Lee-Roy Atalifo, 2 David Cherry, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Replacements: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Sam Grahamslaw, 18 Dan Gamble, 19 Jamie Hodgson, 20 Rory Darge, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Charlie Shiel, 23 James Johnstone

Venue: RDS Arena
Kick-off: 20:15 GMT
Referee: Craig Evans
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace, Eoghan Cross
TMO: Joy Neville