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Treviso ready to exploit rustiness in returning Leinster stars - Reddan

EOIN REDDAN has warned his returning international team-mates that they will have to hit the ground running for Leinster in Treviso today.

Reddan joins a clutch of big names making their seasonal bows in Joe Schmidt's line-up, which includes Brian O'Driscoll and midfield partner Fergus McFadden, out-half Jonny Sexton, front-rowers Richardt Strauss (imminently Irish-qualified) and Mike Ross plus flank forwards Kevin McLaughlin and captain Jamie Heaslip.

Cian Healy returns but on the bench, where he joins Isa Nacewa, whose temporary removal allows Ian Madigan to test his utility value at full-back for the first time under Schmidt.

Gordon D'Arcy and Rob Kearney are the only fit Irish internationals whose seasonal debuts will be delayed until next weekend's RDS clash against Edinburgh.

Reddan is keenly aware that, despite Leinster's exalted reputation, Treviso will not be shy about exploiting any rustiness among the Irish internationals.

"There never is an easy way back in," admitted scrum-half Reddan, who was slated to start against the Dragons before withdrawing at the 11th hour with a minor knock.

"Even if it's a pre-season friendly, the coach is still watching you. You can't go and fall off tackles or whatever, so it's going to be full on -- a big night in terms of physicality and we'll have to bring it.

"We did a lot of that physical work this week, so hopefully we'll be ready to go."

Treviso managed their only victory against Leinster almost two years to the day ago, in Schmidt's winless first month in charge, when the Irish province put out a reasonable side with one notable exception -- O'Driscoll.

"They obviously picked a different team going to Munster, where they put a few guys on the bench, trying to keep them fresh for the next week," admitted Leinster assistant coach Richie Murphy.

"Going over there is going to be a massive challenge for us. They're a big physical side, as everyone knows, and they look like they might be lying in wait."

Reddan agreed that he will be under pressure behind a pack that will need to be at its sharpest from the off, particularly if Leinster want to get their back line flowing, with McFadden particularly keen to demonstrate that he has what it takes to fill the creative role at inside-centre.

"Yeah, hopefully the scrum will do well," he said. "But if the scrum's under pressure it makes my job harder to get the ball out of there.

"Hopefully the boys will put in a big performance and we won't be under too much pressure in the scrum. They have a very big pack, so we'll have to be very physical and direct to counteract that.


"They had a good start to the season by beating Ospreys and past results have shown at this time of year they're very good at home, so it'll be a tough game, very physical for all of us going back in."

Treviso, as Leinster have noted all week, have clearly targeted this game and their efforts in mostly nullifying Munster in the second half last week once they brought on their heavy hitters is indicative of the physical challenge they provide.

They have made an astonishing 14 changes to their starting line-up, naming a heavyweight side featuring 12 internationals and only one player classified as a foreigner -- Kiwi Dean Budd -- who is on the bench.

In total, the starting XV boasts 352 international caps. Three players will be making their seasonal debuts -- Tommaso Benvenuti at outside-centre, Tobias Botes at scrum-half, while Leonardo Ghiraldini features in the front-row and Luke McLean returns to the side at full-back.

Verdict: Leinster

Treviso -- L McLean; E Gori, T Benvenuti, A Sgarbi, L Nitoglia; A Di Bernardo, T Botes; A De Marchi, L Ghiraldini, I Fernandez-Rouyet; F Minto, C Van Zyl (capt); S Favaro, A Zanni, R Barbieri. Replacements: F Sbaraglini, M Rizzo, L Cittadini, V Bernabò, D Budd, M Filippucci, F Semenzato, K Burton.

LEINSTER -- I Madigan; A Conway, B O'Driscoll, F McFadden, F Carr; J Sexton, E Reddan; H van der Merwe, R Strauss, M Ross; D Browne, D Toner; K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip (capt). Replacements: S Cronin, C Healy, J Hagan, L Cullen, J Murphy, J Cooney, N Reid, I Nacewa.

Ref -- I Davies (WRU).

Irish Independent