PRO12 Preview: Leinster vs. Aironi

Luke Fitz is back for Leinster. (c) Art Widak.

Friday 2nd March, 18.00 (Italian TV)

Luke Fitzgerald makes a welcome return to the Leinster team tomorrow night having fully recovered from the neck injury that has kept him out for almost two months. Alongside him in the back-three is 20-year-old Andrew Conway,  just back from a spell on the sidelines himself. Fionn Carr, Ian Madigan and Brendan Macken all feature in an exciting backline. Shane Jennings captains the side from the back-row. It’s a heavyweight Leinster pack with the likes of Richardt Strauss, Rhys Ruddock and Nathan White all starting. With Isa Nacewa riding pine, it will be interesting to see Madigan take over on place-kicking duty.

Aironi have made four changes to the side which went down 10-9 to the Dragons last weekend following a last minute penalty try. Italy international Giulio Toniolatti comes in at fullback while Riccardo Pavan is selected on the right wing. Up front, injury rules out ex-Munster No.8 Nick Williams. As a result, 23-year-old Italian international Simone Favaro starts at 7, with Nicola Cattina and the experienced Josh Sole shuffling positions in the back-row. George Biagi replaces Joshua Furno in the second-row.

This is a bottom vs. top clash, with Leinster 11 points clear at the summit of the PRO12 table. Aironi are languishing at the foot of the table, 8 points behind 11th-placed Edinburgh. The Italian team have only won 3 games in the league this season, as well as losing all 6 of their Heineken Cup pool games. After last weekend’s 10-10 draw in Glasgow, this is a well-timed opportunity for Leinster to get back to winning ways. They should have far too much pace and ability for Aironi. Verdict: Bonus-point win for Leinster.

Aironi: 15 Giulio Toniolatti, 14 Riccardo Pavan, Roberto Quartaroli 13, 12 Gabriel Pizarro, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Josh Sole, 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Nicola Cattina; 5 Carlo Del Fava, 4 George Biagi, 3 Lorenzo Romano, 2 Roberto Santamaria (cap), 1 Matias Aguero.                                         Subs: 16 Fabio Ongaro, 17 Alberto De Marchi , 18 Salvatore Perugini, 19 Redolfini Luca, Filippo Ferrarini 20, 21 Tyson Keats, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 Gilberto Pavan.

Leinster: 15 Luke Fitzgerald, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Eoin O’Malley, 12 Brendan Macken, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Rhys Ruddock, 7 Shane Jennings (capt.), 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Damian Browne, 3 Nathan White, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.                                Subs: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Leo Auva’a, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 John Cooney, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Isa Nacewa.

Referee: Andrew Macpherson (Scotland).

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Photo copyright:  Art Widak.

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