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It's an important day for these 5 Leinster players against Zebre

With places still up for grabs ahead of the Champions Cup opener against Wasps, these men will be out to impress.

WITH PLACES STILL up for grabs in Leinster’s XV for the opening Champions Cup clash against Wasps at the RDS next Sunday, this afternoon’s clash with Zebre provides several players with the chance to shine.

While Matt O’Connor will be keen to ensure that the focus is on a strong team display at the Stadio Aprile XXV [KO 15.00 Irish time], here are five men for whom there is much on the line.

Ian Madigan

The 25-year-old is back where he has probably always wanted to be, as Leinster’s starting out-half. Jimmy Gopperth has not had a strong start to the season in the 10 shirt, meaning Madigan can convince O’Connor that he is the answer ahead of Europe.

Ian Madigan 7/10/2014 Ian Madigan is back at out-half for Leinster. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

With the likes of Noel Reid and Ben Te’o increasing the options in midfield, it may be that Madigan’s recent conversion into a centre is put on hold if he can prove his ability to manage a game over 80 minutes and spark Leinster’s attacking edge.

Noel Reid

In the same vein, the returning Reid will be eager to demonstrate that his creative passing and running skills can inspire the province. The 24-year-old had an impressive campaign in 2013/14, but has still never featured in Europe for the Leinster.

LeinsterÕs Noel Reid leaves the field injured Reid injured his ankle in Leinster's opening game of the season against Glasgow. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Te’o offers O’Connor something totally different in the centre with his athleticism and size, but Reid’s attacking ability could be suited to breaking down Wasps. Proving his fitness is important after an ankle injury, and he will also look to link well with Madigan.

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Marty Moore

The tighthead prop has been savaging his teammates in training, according to well-placed sources, while Leinster believe they have greatly increased his fitness. The 23-year-old is ready to lay down a fresh challenge to Mike Ross in blue and green this season.

LeinsterÕs Marty Moore Moore has been impressing at Leinster training. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

While the veteran prop remains a favourite of O’Connor’s and Joe Schmidt’s, Moore will feel that his time has come. A destructive scrummaging performance against Zebre, as well as a busy shift around the pitch, could convince the Australian that Moore has to start against Wasps.

Mike McCarthy and Kane Douglas

This pair start for Leinster in the second row, and they are essentially playing off for the second locking spot alongside Devin Toner ahead of the Wasps encounter.

Douglas added some much-needed aggression off the bench for Leinster last weekend, replacing McCarthy in the 49th minute. The Ireland international would have been disappointed with his work around the breakdown, like the majority of his teammates.

Kane Douglas 7/10/2014 Douglas has settled in at Leinster swiftly. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

O’Connor has labelled Douglas as a “world-class lock” on a number of occasions in recent weeks and clearly expects great things from the 14-times capped Wallaby. Will McCarthy hold off the challenge of the 6ft 8ins 25-year-old for Leinster’s Champions Cup opener?

Leinster: Rob Kearney (capt.); Zane Kirchner, Gordon D’Arcy, Noel Reid, Darragh Fanning; Ian Madigan, Isaac Boss; Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss, Marty Moore; Mike McCarthy, Kane Douglas; Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Ed Byrne, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, Jamie Heaslip, Luke McGrath, Jimmy Gopperth, Mick McGrath.

Zebre: David Odiete; Giulio Toniolatti, Tommaso Iannone, Gonzalo Garcia, Leonardo Sarto; Edoardo Padovani, Guglielmo Palazzani; Matias Aguero, Andrea Manici, Dario Chistolini; Quintin Geldenhuys, Marco Bortolami (capt.); Mauro Bergamasco, Filippo Cristiano, Samuela Vunisa.

Replacements: Oliviero Fabiani, Andrea Lovotti, Luciano Leibson, Andries Ferreira, Valerio Bernabò, Luciano Orquera, Kelly Haimona, George Biagi.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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