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Scarlets vs Leinster Rugby
Parc y Scarlet, Llanelli
Saturday 24th September 2011, 18:30

Television: Live TG4/S4C

Glasgow didn't read the script!

It was set up for a lovely evening in the RDS last Saturday. The crowd was visibly buzzing from Ireland's heroics against Australia that morning, and after that magnificent feast, Leinster would surely provide a nice dessert with a handy win full of nice tries. Leinster started well and seemed to be well in control of the match, but they didn't capitalise on their early dominance and Glasgow stayed in it. Then injuries took their toll in the second half and with Leinster players strewn all over the pitch, Glasgow scored the match-winning try in the second half.

In fairness to a patched up Glasgow team, they showed great courage in holding on for the win, which clearly meant a lot to them. True, they were somewhat aided by an eccentric refereeing display from Archie McMenemy (they seem to have repealed the offside law in Scotland) but they deserved their first ever win in Dublin. As in the past, Leinster looked like they under-estimated a Scottish team and it came back to haunt them.

The gloom after the match was further exacerbated by the serious-looking injuries suffered by Dominic Ryan and Kevin McLaughlin. With 14 players away at the World Cup, it was always going to be tough for Joe Schmidt but a further 10 injuries mean his resources are at breaking point particularly in the backrow and halfback. Once again, he's been forced to dip into the academy for the trip to Parc y Scarlet where Leinster have only lost once in the last five visits.

For the Scarlets it's a big occasion as it's the 5000th game in Llanelli's history. They had a pretty decent season last term being somewhat unlucky to finish just outside the play-off places. This season hasn't gotten off to such a good start though. They beat Aironi at home in their first game out but have since suffered two losses on the road to Connacht and Munster.

They're missing ten players who are at the World Cup but only three of these players (hooker Ken Owens, Fijian prop Deacon Manu and Tongan lock Sione Timani) are forwards. That means they can name a side with most of their starting pack intact, although they've lost Josh Turnbull and Lou Reed to injuries picked up last week. The experienced old dog Iestyn Thomas captains the team from the front row alongside Emyr Phillips and Rhys Thomas. Aaron Shingler replaces Reed in the second row alongside Dominic Day. In the backrow, openside Johnathan Edwards replaces Turnbull and lines up alongside Rob McCusker and Ben Morgan in what's a particularly strong unit for them.

With so many away at the World Cup, the Scarlets backline has a more unfamiliar look to it. Nineteen-year-old Dale Ford starts again at full back after impressing against Munster last week. He's joined in the back three by Lee Williams and the experienced Andy Fenby. In midfield, another youngster Nick Reynolds, is paired with another old head in Gareth Maule. Dan Newton plays with Kiwi short-term signing Ruki Tipuna at half-back. Overall it's a decent team, but probably not as strong as it could have been.

For Leinster there are three changes from the team that started last weekend, all in the pack. New signing Nathan White makes his first start at tight-head prop coming in for Jamie Hagan. In the second row Damien Browne comes back into the team in place of the injured McLaughlin. In the backrow academy flanker Jordi Murphy makes his first start at openside in place of Ryan. It's a big ask for Murphy as he's played most of his underage rugby at blindside or number eight. He's a big lad for his age and should be able for it physically, but he's going to need a lot of help from the more experienced members of the pack. Another academy player, lock Ciaran Ruddock, is asked to provide backrow cover on the bench. The backline is unchanged from last week and in particular the midfield trio will have to up their game to take advantages of any chances that come their way.

It's always tough to go on the road with an inexperienced team so the veterans in the team like Isa Nacewa, Heinke van der Merwe and Damian Browne will really need to step up and lead from the front. The front fives look even enough and Leinster look to have the edge in the backs so the game will largely come down to the battle of the backrows. Edwards is a classic openside who will look to slow the Leinster ball down. Leinster's work at the breakdown hasn't been great all season so the whole pack needs to renew their commitment to getting men to the ruck in numbers.

If Leinster can give their backs a platform, they could well sneak a win. However in the circumstances, a losing bonus point would actually be a pretty decent effort from the young team.

Team Lineups


Leinster Rugby
Teams Dale Ford
15 Isa Nacewa
Lee Williams 14 Fionn Carr
Nick Reynolds 13 Eoin O'Malley
Gareth Maule 12 Luke Fitzgerald
Andy Fenby 11 David Kearney
Dan Newton 10 Ian Madigan
Ruki Tipuna 9 Cillian Willis

Iestyn Thomas (C)
1 Heinke van der Merwe
Emyr Phillips 2 Richardt Strauss
Rhys Thomas 3 Nathan White
Aaron Shingler 4 Damian Browne
Dominic Day 5 Devin Toner
Rob McCusker 6 Rhys Ruddock (C)
Johnathan Edwards 7 Jordi Murphy
Ben Morgan 8 Leo Auva'a

Replacements Craig Hawkins 16 Jason Harris-Wright
Phil John 17 Jack McGrath
Rhodri Jones 18 Jamie Hagan
Damian Welch 19 Mark Flanagan
Richie Pugh 20 Ciaran Ruddock
Gareth Davies 21 John Cooney
Aled Thomas 22 Brendan Macken
Liam Williams 23 Darren Hudson

Not Considered
due to Injury
Daniel Evans,
Aled Davies,
Josh Turnbull,
Lou Reed,
Morgan Stoddart

Mat Berquist,
Eamonn Sheridan,
Shane Horgan,
Simon Shawe,
Andrew Conway,
Steven Sykes,
Tom Sexton,
Ben Marshall,
Kevin McLaughlin,
Dominic Ryan

Referee: John Lacey (IRFU),
Assistant Referees: Neil Hennessy, Hugh Watkins (both WRU),
TMO: Tony Rowlands (WRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2011-09-23