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Leinster Rugby vs Scarlets
RDS Showground, Dublin,
Friday, 17th February 2012, 19:35

Television: Live: TG4

That's Leinstertainment!

Last weeks Leinster match against Treviso was set-up to be a drab affair. It was a lousy kick-off time, 7.05 on a Thursday, with people fighting through brutal rush hour traffic to get to the match. It was miserable weather-wise too, with constant rain all day and with Leinster having a fairly young team out, a dour, scrappy win was probably the best we could anticipate. However despite everything, a pretty decent Leinster crowd turned up and they were rewarded with a fine display of attacking rugby, particularly in the last half hour.

The young guys who started such as Brendan Macken, Colm O'Shea and Darren Hudson all acquitted themselves very well. They were further boosted by the arrival of more young lads from the bench and Jamie Hagan, Rhys Ruddock, Jack McGrath, Tom Sexton and Dave Kearney all made a positive contribution. Noel Reid had some classy touches and John Cooney showed good pace and awareness for his first Leinster try. It wasn't all the young guys though as Isaac Boss, Richardt Strauss and Kevin McLaughlin (in his first game as captain) all led the way. However once again Isa Nacewa was just sheer class in everything he did and was a deserved man of the match.

So overall it was a hugely positive evening for Leinster and the fans will be looking for more of the same against the Scarlets tomorrow night. Once again the Scarlets are having a frustrating season. They've had their highs and lows but have been bedevilled by inconsistency. They got off to a great start in their Heineken Cup campaign by winning their first two games including a fantastic away win in Northampton. However, despite pushing them close, they lost both matches to Munster in the double-header and when they lost the home match to Northampton they were done. They did manage to scrape into the quarter-finals of the Amlin though where they'll play Brive away.

Their Pro12 form has been up and down and they currently lie in seventh place in the table. Their home form has been fairly steady, in fact Leinster were the only team to beat them at home in the league this season, but the problem has come on the road where they've lost all their games outside Wales. A win at the Dragons and a draw at the Ospreys has been their only return and explains their mid-table position. They're still only four points off the play-off places though but they need to get a move on and will target a win tomorrow.

They've been boosted by the return of some members of the Welsh training squad, although they're still without players such as George North, Jonathan Davies, Aaron Shingler and Rhys Priestland. They've made six changes to the starting line-up that took the field in the defeat away to Glasgow last week. Scott Williams, who had such a good World Cup, comes in at centre to partner their captain Gareth Maule. Liam Williams, who impressed in the Heineken Cup campaign comes in on the right wing and the massively experienced Stephen Jones is back at out-half where he'll partner Gareth Davies. In the pack Rhodri Jones and Deacon Manu both come in at prop to pack down alongside Emyr Phillips at hooker. The final change is Kieran Murphy coming in at number eight, with Ben Morgan, who's made a big impact for England in the Six Nations, named on the bench. Murphy is part of a handy backrow with Josh Turnbull and Johnathan Edwards.

Leinster are also boosted by the return of several players from the international squad and have made eight changes to the team that started against Treviso. Three of these are in the front row where Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin and Jamie Hagan all come in. The only other change in the pack sees Rhys Ruddock come in at number eight. Kevin McLaughlin continues to captain the side from blindside flanker.

There are four changes to the backs as well as David Kearney, Eoin O'Malley, Fergus McFadden and Eoin Reddan all come in to start. Isa Nacewa, Fionn Carr and Ian Madigan, who all scored tries against Treviso, complete a very strong-looking backline. Leinster have experience to call on from the bench with Richardt Strauss, Heinke van der Merwe and Isaac Boss and it's great to see Dominic Ryan named there after he missed most of the season so far with injury.

Games between the Scarlets and Leinster are nearly always entertaining affairs as both teams are known for their attacking style of play. The Scarlets were the last Welsh team to win a regular season game at the RDS when they gave Leinster a hiding back in 2007. However, with the strength of the Leinster squad that's been named it's hard to see them repeating that feat and Leinster should be able to extend their undefeated run to 18 matches.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby

Teams Isa Nacewa
15 Dan Newton
David Kearney 14 Liam Williams
Eoin O'Malley 13 Gareth Maule (C)
Fergus McFadden 12 Scott Williams
Fionn Carr 11 Andy Fenby
Ian Madigan
10 Stephen Jones
Eoin Reddan 9 Gareth Davies

Jack McGrath 1 Rhodri Jones
Tom Sexton 2 Emyr Phillips
Jamie Hagan 3 Deacon Manu
Damian Browne 4 Sione Timani
Devin Toner 5 Dominic Day
Kevin McLaughlin (C)
6 Josh Turnbull
Shane Jennings 7 Johnathan Edwards
Rhys Ruddock 8 Kieran Murphy

Replacements Richardt Strauss 16 Craig Hawkins
Heinke van der Merwe 17 Phil John
Nathan White 18 Peter Edwards
Leo Auva'a 19 Damian Welch
Dominic Ryan 20 Ben Morgan
Isaac Boss 21 Liam Davies
Noel Reid 22 Adam Warren
Brendan Macken 23 Viliame Iongi

Not Considered
due to Injury
Mat Berquist,
Shane Horgan,
Brian O'Driscoll,
Eamonn Sheridan,
Luke Fitzgerald,
Andrew Conway,
Leo Cullen,
Ben Marshall

Iestyn Thomas,
Matthew Rees,
Tavis Knoyle,
Rod McCusker,
Morgan Stoddart
Officials Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Stuart Gaffakin (both IRFU)
4th Official: Ed Kenny (Leinster Rugby Referees)
5th Official: John Montayne (Leinster Rugby Referees)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2012-02-17