leinsterfans.com: Supporting Leinster Rugby
skip to content

Scarlets vs Leinster Rugby
Parc y Scarlet, Llanelli
Saturday, 12th December 2009, 18:00

Television: Live Sky Sports 1, Highlights RTE2 9.30

Leinster return to Heineken Cup action tomorrow with a tough trip to Llanelli. After Leinster lost at home to London Irish their next two fixtures became must-win matches. They accomplished the first part with some style away to Brive, now they have to produce a similar performance in Wales. But make no mistake, the Scarlets are up for this match!

After being the Welsh standard bearers for years in the Heineken Cup, the last two seasons were pretty grim for the Scarlets with only one win from twelve group games. However they've started this season with two wins from two, including their magnificent win away to London Irish which was the shock result of round two. They lead the group and they know that a win tomorrow will put them in a very strong position and put Leinster on the brink of going out. When you look at the stifling boredom that the Champions League group stages create, it's a credit to the Heineken Cup format that a fixture in round three can create such tension.

The Scarlets' excellent Heineken form is in contrast to their Magners League form where two wins from eight sees them lying second from bottom in the table. However it's worth remembering that one of those wins was against Leinster in the first game of the season. Leinster led that game 16-7 in the first half and seemed set for a comfortable victory but the Scarlets upped the tempo in the second half and ran out 18-16 winners. Only seven of the Leinster team that started that night will start on Saturday (as opposed to eleven of the Scarlets team) but it should still serve as a lesson that this team is not to be underestimated.

The Scarlets have lost key men in hooker Matthew Rees, flanker Dafydd Jones, wing Mark Jones and fullback Morgan Stoddart, while long-term hamstring victim Regan King is still not back. The effect on the injuries is most striking in their backline where only Sean Lamont and Stephen Jones are above the age of 24. But there is some real quality in the youngsters, particularly scrum-half Martin Roberts, centre Jonathan Davies and full-back Daniel Evans who've all been capped by Wales. Scottish international wing Lamont will play out of position in the centre, but he provides bulk and proven try scoring ability.

Lions fly-half Stephen Jones will be their main man though. With his dead eyed place-kicking Leinster will need to keep their discipline in their own half and with his range of passing he's capable of opening up even the tightest defence. A big part of Leinster winning will be keeping Jones quiet and Sean O'Brien will no doubt have a brief to be in his face all day.

Australian David Lyons, who forms an impressive back row with Richie Pugh and player-coach Simon Easterby, captains the Scarlets. Lyons struggled in his first season in Wales, but he's been in flying form this term and it's a measure of his influence in the squad that he's been given the captaincy in Mark Jones's absence despite the presence of leaders like Easterby and Stephen Jones. Their front five is a mixture of youthful exuberance and hard old workhorses, but the absence of Lions hooker Rees has been lessened somewhat by the excellent form of young Ken Owens. Their pack isn't the biggest unit around but they are very mobile and are capable of playing a very high tempo game if they're allowed to get into their stride.

After last week's defeat to the Dragons, Leinster have named virtually an entirely different starting fifteen this week as only CJ van der Linde retains his starting place. Leinster were always on a hiding to nothing last week and it was no real surprise to see them comprehensively beaten. However, though it had little relevance to the overall result, it was sad to see a refereeing display of such staggering incompetence from Simon McDowell. The fact that McDowell represents Ireland on the international stage should give sleepless nights to the people responsible for promoting referees in the IRFU. Some of his errors last week would embarrass a J4 referee.

The big selection question all week was who would replace the injured Jonny Sexton in the number ten jersey. Once the flirtation with Matt Giteau came to nothing it was always going to be Shaun Berne. It's fair to say that Berne has struggled in his first two starts at ten for Leinster, but this time he'll be part of the first choice line-up, so hopefully he'll just concentrate on doing his job as part of an excellent backline. The rest of the team is as expected with Isa Nacewa covering for the injured Luke Fitzgerald on the left wing.

In the pack Kevin "Locky" McLaughlin gets the nod to start at six, so Nathan Hines plays in the second row alongside captain Leo Cullen. Jamie Heaslip plays his 100th game for Leinster at number eight. It's quite a staggering achievement considering he's only twenty-five years old and this is only his fifth full season as a Leinster player. It's a real testament to both his durability and his hunger for the game. There are some interesting selections on the bench as Stan Wright makes a welcome return after injury and young scrum-half Paul O'Donohoe is selected in a Heineken Cup squad for the first time.

Ask Leinster's fans what's the best away trip to Wales and most will tell you it's Llanelli. It's a small town compared to the likes of Cardiff or Swansea but that's part of it's charm. The locals have been hyping up the match all week and it's hopeful that Leinster's thousand strong travelling support will be part of a sell-out crowd. Whatever the result, it will be a great occasion and a great post-match party.

On paper Leinster have the stronger team, but as we've seen countless times before, rugby isn't played on paper and this Scarlets team is capable of playing some sublime rugby. Leinster know that they'll need to dominate possession in the early stages and build their scores patiently. Like in Brive, they'll need to dampen the spirits of the vocal home crowd. If they can do that, then hopefully they'll have enough to dig out a vital win that will get their Heineken Cup campaign back on track.

Team Lineups


Leinster Rugby
Teams Daniel Evans
15 Rob Kearney
Andy Fenby
14 Shane Horgan
Sean Lamont
13 Brian O'Driscoll
Jonathan Davies
12 Gordon D'Arcy
Lee Williams
11 Isa Nacewa
Stephen Jones
10 Shaun Berne
Martin Roberts
9 Eoin Reddan

Iestyn Thomas
1 Cian Healy
Ken Owens
2 John Fogarty
Deacon Manu
3 CJ van der Linde
Lou Reed
4 Leo Cullen (C)
Dominic Day
5 Nathan Hines
Simon Easterby
6 Kevin McLaughlin
Richie Pugh
7 Sean O'Brien
David Lyons (C)
8 Jamie Heaslip

Replacements Phil John
16 Bernard Jackman
Emyr Phillips
17 Mike Ross
Jamie Corsi
18 Stan Wright
Vernon Cooper
19 Malcolm O'Kelly
Rod McCusker
Stephen Keogh
Tavis Knoyle
21 Paul O'Donohoe
Rhys Priestland
22 Fergus McFadden
Gareth Maule
23 Girvan Dempsey

Not Considered
due to Injury
Matthew Rees
Dafydd Jones
Mark Jones
Morgan Stoddart
Regan King

Luke Fitzgerald
Jonathan Sexton

Referee: Chris White (RFU)
Assistant Referees: Sean Davey (RFU), Stuart Terheege (RFU)
4th Official: Richard Hughes (WRU)
5th Official: Lyndon Young (WRU)
TMO: David Matthews (RFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2009-12-11