Thursday 23 November 2017

Matt O'Connor eager to bounce back after shock defeat

Leinster head coach Matt O'Connor
Leinster head coach Matt O'Connor
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

After a shock home defeat, if you'd given Matt O'Connor a choice of teams to arrive at the RDS, Zebre would surely have been top of the pile.

The Italians are rooted to the foot of the table and were this week forced to draft in five amateur players.

Nevertheless, O'Connor was keen to point out that there would be no sense of complacency from his side as they look to get their title challenge back on track this evening (7.35).

"Zebre are irrelevant to me," the Australian coach said.

"They will do what they do and pick who they pick. We need to make sure that regardless of how well they play or who they pick that we bring a performance.

"We need to play as well as we can and get as many points as we can because if we're talking about finishing in the top two, there aren't many opportunities left."

O'Connor has made seven changes to the side who were beaten at home by the Dragons as they bid to avoid becoming the first Leinster side to lose back-to-back games at the RDS.

Eoin Reddan returns from a knee injury and starts at scrum-half as he bids to prove his fitness ahead of Ireland's Six Nations clash with England next weekend.

Zane Kirchner also returns from injury and is named at full-back with Luke Fitzgerald and Fergus McFadden occupying the wings.

Having announced his decision to retire at the end of the season, Shane Jennings captains the side from the back-row while Cian Healy will be hoping to make his first Leinster appearance since September from the bench.

"The reality of last week was that we beat ourselves and in front of our fans that's unacceptable," O'Connor admitted.

"That's been the focus of the week, to rectify those things and make sure that it doesn't happen again."

The Leinster supporters will demand nothing less against the league's worst side.

Verdict: Leinster

Leinster - Z Kirchner; F McFadden, B Te'o, G D'Arcy, L Fitzgerald; J Gopperth, E Reddan; M Bent, A Dundon, M Moore; M McCarthy, K Douglas; D Ryan, S Jennings (c), J Conan. Reps: S Cronin, C Healy, T Furlong, B Marshall, D Leavy, I Boss, C Marsh, D Kearney.

Zebre - H Daniller; D Berryman, Mirco Bergamasco, M Pratichetti, M Visentin; L Orquera, B Leonard; A De Marchi, O Fabiani, L Lebison; V Bernabo; M Sutto; J Sarto, Mauro Bergamasco (c), S Vunisa. Reps: L Giovanchelli, L Naka, L Redolfini, G Bernini, R Riccioli, A Chillon, E Padovani, D Odiete.

REF - N Owens (Wales)

Leinster v Zebre, Live, TG4, 7.35

Irish Independent

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