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Leinster Give Plenty of Players a Chance to Shine Against Treviso

Lots of changes.

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Photo By Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Leinster have only retained two players from their starting XV that defeated Ulster last weekend for their clash with Benetton Treviso in the RDS on Saturday at 19 45.

The two players retained are second-row Scott Fardy and scrum-half Luke McGrath, who also captains the side.

Leinster will be looking to stretch their lead at the top of Conference B having already sealed a home semi-final and have decided to switch things up in order to get the job done.

In the front-row Ulster-bound Jack McGrath comes in alongside James Tracy and Andrew Porter, with Mick Kearney pairing up with Fardy behind them in the second-row.

The young trio of Josh Murphy, Max Deegan and Caelan Doris start in the back-row at six, seven and eight respectively.

McGrath continues at nine and is joined in the half-backs by Noel Reid at 10. Joe Tomane and youngster Conor O’Brien begin the game in the centre.

James Lowe returns to the side on the left-wing, with Fergus McFadden on the right and Barry Daly coming in at full-back.

It is a youthful bench as well with the likes of Jack Dunne, Hugh O’Sullivan, Ciaran Frawley and Jimmy O’Brien joining Scott Penny, who makes his first appearance since winning the Grand Slam with the Irish under 20s.

Head coach Leo Cullen has called on his players to use this opportunity to stake a claim for places in the teams that will play in the big games coming up.

“It’s a great chance for guys to lay down a marker and put their hands up and say ‘pick me, pick me for the team’ for the big games. That semi-final in a couple of weeks that everyone wants to play in. That’s the message,” he said.

The Italian side head to the RDS on the back of what has been a sensational season so far and have a host of their national players in the team.

Nicola Quaglio, Luca Bigi and Marco Riccioni make up the front-three, as Irne Herbsy and Federico Ruzza start in the engine room.

There is a strong back-three to finish up the pack with Sebastian Negri, Braam Steyn and Toa Halafihi all set to start.

Dewaldt Duvenage partners Tommaso Allan in the half-backs with Luca Morisi at 12 and Marco Zanon at 13.

Monty Ioane and Iliesa Ratuva on the wings and Jayden Hayward covering the full-back role.

With players like Simone Ferrari and Tito Tebaldi to call on from the reserves, Leinster will have to be wary of the visitors in the closing stages.

As mentioned above Leinster already certain to finish top of Conference B but will want to head into the knock-out stages on a high. While Benetton currently sit third in the conference, three-points ahead of Edinburgh and a win away here could be vital if they are to claim a play-off spot.

Pro14

Zebre Star Receives Small Ban for Biting

Zebre might have claimed a famous away win in the PRO14 last weekend, but it’s not all rosy for the Italian team after one of their players has been handed a ban for biting, although it’s shorter than most would expect

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Zebre No 8 has received a six-week ban after being found guilty of biting an opposition player during last Saturday’s PRO14 clash with the Ospreys.

The 24-year-old was expected to be handed a lengthy ban for an act of foul play that is seriously frowned upon in the sport, but after initially being given a 12-week ban it was cut in half due to his previous disciplinary record, his admission of guilt and his conduct throughout the process. 

All of which means that he will be free to play for the Italian minnows, who enjoyed a memorable away win in Wales, come the 12th of January. 

The four-time capped Italian’s ban comes only a week after the exact same ban that was handed down to La Rochelle’s Pierre Bourgarit, who was caught eye-gouging Sale’s Tom Curry in a Champions Cup fixture. 

Another one of the worst offences in the game and it was reduced from 12 to six weeks, much for the same reasons as Giammarioli. 

Some fans and ex-players will criticise the decision, as it appears a much softer result than in days gone by for offences that could have caused serious harm to opponents.

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Pro14

Dragons Prop Forced to Retire Early

The Dragons have confirmed that one of their players has been forced to retire due to a freak training ground injury

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Dragons prop Jack Cosgrove has decided to retire from rugby due to injury the club have confirmed.

At only 25-years of age Cosgrove has been forced to retire early due to an eye injury that he sustained during a training session back in October. 

Having only joined the Welsh outfit in the summer it is a big blow to Cosgrove and the club wished him all the best in a statement.  

“Everyone at the Dragons wishes Jack every success in his future and he will continue to receive professional help and support from the region as he makes the transition from playing,” the statement read. 

The player had been through specialist treatment and had medical advice which helped him come to his decision.

Cosgrove came through the Worcester Warriors academy in England before he moved on to Edinburgh in 2015. A move to Bristol in 2017 followed, where he won the Championship on his return to England, before a return to Worcester ahead of his final switch to Dragons. 

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Pro14

Ospreys Turn to Ruddock for Morale Boost

The Ospreys have suffered a terrible start to the season but they have turned to a former Grand Slam winner to help change their fortunes

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Former Six Nations Grand Slam winner Mike Ruddock has been brought in by the Ospreys on a short-term contract to try and get their season off the ground.

The former Wales international, who won the Grand Slam in 2005, has joined the Welsh outfit on a temporary basis, for now, with a contract until the end of December. 

Ospreys managing director Andrew Millward is delighted to have him on board. 

“We are delighted to have Mike join us for a month. The coaches and players have all welcomed the decision to draft him in to offer his support and having him play a key role in our review of our rugby operations,” he said. 

Ospreys are currently looking to part ways with head coach Allen Clarke in a legally correct manner. Clarke joined on a three-year contract in April 2018, but the results have been below par since and coaches Matt Sherratt and Carl Hogg will come in to take charge on an interim basis which Ruddock will oversee. 

However, despite the Ospreys claim that Ruddock will come in on a short-term deal, the feeling is that he will take full control once Clarke’s situation is sorted out, with his club Lansdowne adding to that feeling by tweeting that he could stay on after the initial deal. 

“With regret but with our full support, we announce that with immediate effect Mike Ruddock has taken a position with Ospreys to become initially a consultant for a month but may turn into a longer commitment. Mike and Ospreys have kept us fully informed at all times,” the tweet read. 

Ospreys say they are reviewing their whole rugby operation and figuring out what coaches will stay on for the future to try and improve the club. 

The club currently sit joint-bottom of Conference A with Zebre, only being separated by points difference, but Ruddock’s first task will be in the Champions Cup, when the Welsh side face the daunting visit of Racing 92 to Swansea, before the reverse fixture the following week.

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