We underestimate 'buoyant' Zebre at our peril - Dempsey
Published 04/11/2016 | 02:30
You need only look at a significant number of Zebre's Pro12 results over the first six rounds of the season to know that their incredible win over Edinburgh last weekend had been coming.
While they suffered heavy defeats at the hands of Munster and the Ospreys, the Italian outfit had finished within five points of the Dragons, Cardiff and Glasgow.
Zebre were also enjoying a 22-10 half-time lead over Connacht when their clash in Parma was abandoned due to a storm.
So, when Giovanbattista Venditti crashed over two minutes from time to ensure a first win of the campaign at Murrayfield, it certainly wasn't the shock it would have been in years gone by.
The 19-14 victory not only ended a run of three consecutive wins for Edinburgh, but also made a little bit of history for Gianluca Guidi's men, who picked up their first win on Scottish soil at the ninth attempt.
So Zebre will not be lacking in confidence when Leinster arrive at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi tomorrow evening looking to preserve their place at the top of the table.
Backs coach Girvan Dempsey is acutely aware of the threat the hosts will pose to the Blues, and insisted that no-one in the Leinster set-up will be taking them lightly.
"Zebre are a quality side and you can't underestimate them, particularly at home," he said.
"You look at Zebre's results at home - Glasgow, Cardiff - and they were well in the game and will probably look back and rue a few opportunities that they spurned.
"They scored three tries in both those games, they had Connacht at 22-10 at half-time when the storm came in and the game got cancelled.
"They're going to be buoyant and really on a high after getting an away win against Edinburgh, so we know that we can't underside them, and would underestimate them at our peril.
"We've got to make sure that we're accurate, build on the performance against Connacht and make sure our heads are clued in to do a job."
Leinster will be riding the crest of a wave themselves, having been so impressive in beating the champions at the RDS last time out.
Leo Cullen's side have won six of their opening seven Pro12 fixtures and are looking a sixth consecutive league victory.
With so many players away on international duty, the clash provides the rest of the squad an opportunity to ensure the rich vein of form continues.
With Johnny Sexton and Joey Carbery in the Windy City with Ireland and Cathal Marsh out for two months with a finger injury, 21-year-old Academy out-half Ross Byrne may well be handed the No 10 jersey.
Dempsey is adamant that the young playmaker is suitably equipped to assume the mantle.
"We're fortunate that we have the out-halves in the system, and that they're all performing. When you get international call-ups with Johnny and now Joey, who'll hopefully get more, it provides opportunities for the other guys left behind.
"Ross has been unfortunate getting injuries at the wrong time. He had an ankle injury earlier in the season and a few last season, which stopped him from getting opportunities during international periods.
"He is a cracking footballer and worked really well on his game, so hopefully he'll be involved."