Tuesday 26 September 2017

Zebre focus on staying positive for daunting challenge

Matt O'Connor has spoken of how crucial this period is and his team will look to bounce back against Zebre
Matt O'Connor has spoken of how crucial this period is and his team will look to bounce back against Zebre
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Conceding 54 points at home to last year's beaten Pro12 finalists isn't exactly the ideal way to warm up for a visit to the home of the defending champions, but Zebre's hand has been somewhat strengthened for this evening's clash at the RDS.

After a woeful showing against Glasgow Warriors last weekend, the Italian side, who are rooted to the foot of the table, will welcome back some of their international players as well as five players from the Italian domestic league who have been drafted in.

Zebre have won just two games all season and with Leinster hurting after last week's home defeat, they will be eager to avoid back-to-back defeats at the RDS for the first time.

Leinster won't be at all concerned by the Italians' new recruits as they will undoubtedly look to keep the focus on themselves but Zebre's team manager Andrea De Rossi admitted that the five players had given the squad a much-needed boost ahead of what is a daunting task in Dublin.

"During the Six Nations, it is normal to accommodate these guys in the League of Excellence," De Rossi said.

"Although our group is positive, their inclusion for just a few days is not easy but they have bought into the positive aspect of the will and spirit within the club," he added.

Leinster have their own concerns, however, not least getting back to winning ways as they look to pick up their first victory in three games.

Last Sunday's defeat to the Dragons was a huge opportunity missed to cut the gap at the top of the table and the likelihood is that Matt O'Connor will also have a larger group to choose from.

Leinster were leapfrogged by Ulster into fourth but O'Connor will know that a bonus-point win this evening would put them right back in the hunt and a five-point victory should certainly be the aim.

The Australian spoke last week about how "crucial" the next four games are and with that period now off to a shock losing start, the onus will be on the players to prove a point.

Zebre have conceded 43 tries and 380 points in just 14 league games and that poor record looks certain to be worse come ten o'clock tonight.

The Italians won't need reminding that they have only ever won two games away from home and have lost all five meetings with Leinster thus far.

Positive

The majority of Leinster supporters would have expected a positive result last time out but the Dragons defeat will have served as a major wake-up call to the players who, O'Connor stressed, were not complacent.

"I thought we were inaccurate in a lot of areas, we didn't look after the ball," O'Connor said in the aftermath of the loss.

"I don't think it was a complacency thing, I think it was just inaccurate. We have got to be better than that."

The Leinster supporters who turn up this evening will demand nothing more than an improvement on last weekend's sub-standard performance.

Perhaps a hit-out against the league's worst team is the ideal cure for their ills before an always-tricky away game against the Ospreys next week.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport