Jennings: Leinster wary of Aironi’s physical threat

LEINSTER coach Joe Schmidt is taking few chances as he takes his side to Italy to face Magners League basement side Aironi at the Stadio Luigi Zaffanella today.

Brian O’Driscoll leads a team which has a blend of youth and experience for the trip to Italy and he partners Eoin O’Malley at centre, with Fergus McFadden reverting to the right wing.

The back three is completed by full-back David Kearney, who is in line to make his 11th appearance of the season — which includes four league tries — and Luke Fitzgerald.

Eoin Reddan links up at half-back with 22-year-old Ian Madigan, who is making his 15th appearance of the campaign.

In the pack, Cian Healy and Mike Ross form the front row alongside hooker Jason Harris-Wright with Devin Toner starting alongside Scotland’s Nathan Hines at second row. Ireland trio Shane Jennings, Sean O’Brien and Rhys Ruddock make up the back row.

Shane Horgan, who scored two tries in the 34-26 victory over Ulster last weekend, is one of four Ireland internationals on the replacements bench including Isaac Boss, Leo Cullen and Jonathan Sexton.

Such a strong bench suggests Schmidt is wary of the need to bring in heavy artillery should the Italian franchise make life difficult for Leinster in the continental heat.

And flanker Shane Jennings insists complacency is far from Leinster’s minds.

“The great thing about the Magners League this year is the huge competition amongst all the teams,” he says. “You only have to look at the top half of the league table to prove that.

“Aironi are a new team, yes, but are skilful and physical, so we are under no illusion they will ask questions of us. They have huge men in the pack and a classy backline who can punish you with ball in hand.

“Nick Williams is a quality ball-carrier and if we’re not sharp in our set-piece then they can hurt us. Certainly nobody in the Leinster camp is thinking of this as an easy day.

“Our aim this week is the same as it would be for any other game; to get a lot of hard work done on the training field and in our analysis and to get our preparation work done on our opponents. Nothing changes in that regard from week to week for us.”

With three of the coveted top four places still up for grabs, Jennings makes no bones about Leinster’s desire to secure a home semi-final.

“We have worked very hard to get into this position and we don’t want to let up at this stage. It’s exciting. We’re looking to get a home semi, but there’s a lot of work to do.”

AIRONI: H San Martin; K Robertson, G Pavan, G Pizarro, D Demas; J Marshall, T Tebaldi; A de Marchi, F Ongaro, F Staibano; J Furno, M Bortolami (capt); J Sole, G Krause, N Williams.

Replacements: L Ferraro, S Perugini, L Redolfini, Q Geldenhuys, N Cattina, P Canavosio, M Pratichetti, R Bocchino.

LEINSTER: R Kearney; F McFadden, B O’Driscoll (capt), E O’Malley, L Fitzgerald; I Madigan, E Reddan; C Healy, J Harris-Wright, M Ross; D Toner, N Hines; R Ruddock, S Jennings, S O’Brien.

Replacements: R Strauss, H van der Merwe, S Wright, L Cullen, D Ryan, I Boss, J Sexton, S Horgan.

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