RaboDirect PRO12: Leinster host Ulster, Treviso take on Zebre
Last Updated: 28/12/13 3:04pm
Leinster host Ulster in a RaboDirect PRO12 derby clash in Dublin on Saturday evening aiming to bounce back after a recent mini-slump.
Joe Schmidt's fifth-placed side have slipped to back-to-back defeats, against Northampton in the Heineken Cup and Edinburgh in the PRO12.
The Leinstermen's solo defeat at the RDS since the 2012 PRO12 final was 18-22 to Ulster in this equivalent fixture last season (played on March 30), while that loss represents Leinster's only home defeat to a fellow Irish province since 2008.
Back in from their pre-Christmas training camp with the Ireland squad come Dave Kearney, Mike McCarthy and Sean O'Brien, while Jimmy Gopperth replaces Ian Madigan at fly-half.
Brendan Macken is promoted from the bench to take his place in the centre beside Noel Reid, who retains his place at 12, while Rhys Ruddock replaces Kevin McLaughlin.
Zane Kirchner continues at full-back, with Luke Fitzgerald and Isaac Boss are also retained at 11 and 9 respectively.
There are no changes in the front-row with Michael Bent, Aaron Dundon and Martin Moore once again selected. Leo Cullen captains the side from the second-row with Mike McCarthy partnering him.
Finally, Jordi Murphy is again named at number eight with Rhys Ruddock and Sean O'Brien completing the back row. O'Brien makes a welcome return from injury and comes in for only his second PRO12 appearance of the season.
In-form Ulster won a fifth successive game in all competitions with their 13-6 home defeat of Zebre on Friday to sit fourth in the PRO12.
Head coach Mark Anscombe has made nine personnel changes and three positional switches to the side.
Six of the seven starting backs are Ireland internationals, with Paul Marshall partnering Paddy Jackson in the half backs, Luke Marshall and Darren Cave starting in midfield and Andrew Trimble and Craig Gilroy selected on the wings.
Ricky Andrew, who played against Zebre at Ravenhill, keeps his place at full-back.
Callum Black makes his 50th appearance for the Province and starts at loosehead, with Rob Herring coming in at hooker and Declan Fitzpatrick selected at tighthead.
Lewis Stevenson wears the number 4 jersey, with Dan Tuohy returning to the second row alongside him.
Robbie Diack is named as captain for the game and moves to blindside, with Sean Doyle continuing at openside and Roger Wilson, who has recovered from injury, coming back in at number eight.
Tom Court, Ruan Pienaar and Jared Payne are named as substitutes alongside Niall Annett, Ricky Lutton, Neil McComb, Mike McComish and Michael Allen.
Tenth-placed Treviso return to RaboDirect PRO12 action after their postponed fixture in Glasgow with a derby game against Zebre at Stadio Monigo on Saturday.
It will be the debut of head coach Marius Goosen.
His back-three will be Brendan Williams, Luke McLean and Ludovico Nitoglia, with Christian Loamanu paired with Alberto Sgarbi at centre.
Mat Berquist is paired with Edoardo Gori as the half-backs while the back-row is Robert Barbieri at number eight and Manoa Vosawai and Alessandro Zanni packing down on the flanks.
Captain Antonio Pavanello and Corniel Van Zyl are the locks, while Lorenzo Cittadini, Leonardo Ghiraldini and Alberto De Marchi are the front-row.
Bottom side Zebre, meanwhile, enter the game buoyed by a much-improved effort against Ulster at Ravenhill.
Luciano Orquera and Brendon Leonard are their half-backs, Roberto Quartaroli and Gonzalo Garcia form the midfield while skipper Marco Bortolami is alongside Quintin Geldenhuys at lock.