Belfast Telegraph

Guinness Pro12: Leinster to exploit perfect launching pad

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Leinster don't often get to ease into their Guinness Pro12 campaign in this sort of comfort and Leo Cullen's troops will be confident of getting under way with a big home win over last season's whipping boys Treviso.

They have lost seven of their last eight opening-day fixtures, but with the head coach able to field a team that combines experienced internationals and young tyros eager to impress on their first outing and the early scheduling of the Horse Show due to the Olympics meaning the RDS is available to host the opening game, they should get off to winning ways.

Treviso, who include former Leinster out-half Ian McKinley on their bench, have strengthened since finishing bottom of the table with just three wins but they shouldn't be able to trouble this Leinster team in Dublin.

Joey Carbery has beaten Cathal Marsh and Ross Byrne to the No 10 shirt and the promising Clontarf out-half has a serious opportunity to stake a claim as Johnny Sexton's back-up on his first start.

The New Zealand-born youngster looked a classy operator in the Ulster Bank League last season, but this represents a step-up in class and the Treviso back-row of Francesco Minto, Marco Lazzaroni and Alessandro Zanni will look to disrupt his efforts.

Alongside the 21-year-old is Luke McGrath who leads the side as he looks to establish himself as first-choice scrum-half ahead of Jamison Gibson-Park.

At No 8, Dan Leavy has a chance to establish himself after years of being the coming man, while U-20 star Andrew Porter should see plenty of pitch-time from the bench.

Seeing how the young guns fare is one interesting element to proceedings, but the other key facet will be the form and fitness of Rob Kearney, Cian Healy, Noel Reid and Mike McCarthy who all endured injury-hit campaigns.

Girvan Dempsey gave positive updates on Kearney and Healy yesterday and both men could do with a clean run of games.

The back three of Fergus McFadden, Zane Kirchner and Kearney lends experience to an otherwise callow backline, with Garry Ringrose and Reid forming an exciting pairing in midfield.

The home side will take the field with a variety of silly haircuts after either shaving their heads or dying their hair for charity this week, but they will be deadly serious about their task and should take care of business.

Belfast Telegraph

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