Leinster aim to bounce back

Change is the order of the day for Leinster in Stadio XXV Aprile this afternoon, as the defending champions make 10 alterations to their starting line-up for the Guinness Pro12 encounter against Zebre (kick-off 3pm, Irish time).

Leinster aim to bounce back

Following their below-par showing at home to Munster last Saturday, head coach Matt O’Connor knows his side are eager to produce a response, but is adamant the Italian outfit can’t be taken for granted.

“The guys are pretty clear about putting out a performance that does the shirt proud. There was a lot of disappointment in the sheds after the game [against Munster]. We need to harbour that frustration and learn those lessons pretty quickly,” O’Connor commented.

“They [Zebre] have certainly shown a lot of resolve over the last 18 months and have become incredibly tough to break down and beat over there. We’ll have to make sure we’re very, very good, if we’re going to get the result over there on Saturday”.

After being limited to a cameo appearance last weekend, Rob Kearney returns to captain the side, and he is joined in the back-three by the fully-fit Zane Kirchner and Darragh Fanning. Noel Reid makes his first appearance since his early exit in the seasonal opener against Glasgow Warriors, which means Ian Madigan switches to out-half alongside Isaac Boss.

Fresh from his recent run-out with Girvan Dempsey’s Leinster A side, Richardt Strauss leads a completely changed front-row that also includes Ireland hopefuls Jack McGrath and Marty Moore.

Locks Mike McCarthy and Kane Douglas form a brand-new second-row partnership, while Rhys Ruddock is the most experienced figure at the back of the scrum.

Amongst the replacements bench, there is a good mix of youth and experience, with Jamie Heaslip, Devin Toner and Jimmy Gopperth all acting an excellent reserve options.

LEINSTER: R Kearney; Z Kirchner, G D’Arcy, N Reid, D Fanning; I Madigan, I Boss; J McGrath, R Strauss, M Moore; M McCarthy, K Douglas; R Ruddock, J Van Der Flier, J Conan.

Replacements: B Byrne, E Byrne, T Furlong, D Toner, J Heaslip, L McGrath, J Gopperth, M McGrath.

ZEBRE: D Odiete; G Toniolatti, T Iannone, G Garcia, L Sarto; E Padovani, G Palazzani; M Aguero, A Manici, D Chistolini, Q Geldenhuys, M Bortolami, M Bergamasco, F Cristiano, S Vunisa.

Replacements: O Fabiani, A Lovotti, L Leibson, A Ferreira, V Bernabò, L Orquera, K Haimona, G Biagi.

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