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Leinster Rugby vs Scarlets
Royal Dublin Society Showground,
Saturday, 20th February 2010, 18:30

Television: Live: Setanta Sports 1

After a break of a month, Leinster's fractured season starts back up again with the visit of the Scarlets tomorrow. With the disappointment of the national team's performances over the last two weeks, it comes as something of a relief to return to provincial concerns. However this is a very important match for Leinster to restart their Magners League campaign.

It's actually their first league game of 2010 after the Connacht and Glasgow games in early January were cancelled. These cancellations have seen rivals pull ahead of them in the table and though they obviously have games in hand, points in the bag are always more comforting.

It's the fourth time they'll meet the Scarlets this season. The disappointing opening day loss was avenged by two comprehensive wins in the Heineken Cup in December. After those two results the Scarlets looked dead and buried in the group but they bravely fought back to beat London Irish and Brive to earn a spot in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals. Indeed Leinster owed the Scarlets a debt as they wouldn't have won the group but for them doing the double over the Exiles.

That said, they won't be doing the Scarlets any favours on the pitch come tomorrow. The Scarlets were embarrassed the last time they were at the RDS and they'll be looking to atone for that seven try defeat. They're not as affected by international call-ups as Leinster and can put out a pretty strong team.

Llanelli coach Nigel Davies will be delighted to be able to call on Regan King, who's recently back after a long time out with injury. He forms a very exciting centre partnership with young Jon Davies, who stood out in the Heineken Cup matches. Rhys Priestland played well at full-back in the match at the RDS but in the absence of Stephen Jones he reverts to his normal position of outhalf. Dan Newton is given a first start at fullback with Daniel Evans and Andy Fenby on the wing.

In the pack Simon Easterby is still missing so Rod McCusker continues to deputise in the back row alongside Jonathan Edwards and captain David Lyons. Damian Welch comes in for Dominic Day in the second row and hooker Ken Owens will be looking to celebrate his call-up to the Wales squad with another impressive display.

For Leinster the big news is the return from the Ireland squad of the players who will make up the "middle five" of the team. Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O'Brien and captain Shane Jennings make up the backrow and Eoin Reddan and Jonny Sexton are at half back. They've named a massively experienced front five and there's quite a bit of experience in the outside backs too with Shane Horgan, Girvan Dempsey and Isa Nacewa. Shaun Berne and Fergus McFadden are in the centre, McFadden having recovered from the knock to the ribs he received in the Ireland 'A' match against Scotland. Richardt Strauss and Andrew Conway could make their senior debuts after being named on the bench. It certainly marks a sharp rise for Conway who was playing on the Blackrock schools team this time last year.

As normal after a break from playing, we can expect to see some rustiness early on tomorrow. Certainly there will be a lot of interest in the performances of Sexton and Reddan, who will be looking to play their way onto the Ireland team for the match next week. The Scarlets have been in good form lately and they'll fancy their chances for a bit of revenge. However Leinster should have enough quality to ensure a solid win.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby

Llanelli Scarlets
Teams Girvan Dempsey
15 Dan Newton
Shane Horgan
14 Daniel Evans
Fergus McFadden
13 Regan King
Shaun Berne 12 Jonathan Davies
Isa Nacewa 11 Andy Fenby
Jonathan Sexton
10 Rhys Priestland
Eoin Reddan
9 Martin Roberts

Stan Wright
1 Iestyn Thomas
Bernard Jackman
2 Ken Owens
CJ van der Linde
3 Deacon Manu
Devin Toner
4 Lou Reed
Malcolm O'Kelly
5 Damian Welsh
Kevin McLaughlin 6 Rod McCusker
Shane Jennings (C)
7 Jonathan Edwards
Sean O'Brien 8 David Lyons (C)

Replacements Richardt Strauss
16 Phil John
Mike Ross
17 Emyr Phillips
Trevor Hogan
18 Rhys Thomas
Stephen Keogh
Vernon Cooper
Paul O'Donohoe
20 Josh Turnbull
Eoin O'Malley
21 Tavis Knoyle
Andrew Conway
22 Gareth Maule

Not Considered
due to Injury
Luke Fitzgerald
Robert Kearney

Officials Referee: Andy Macpherson (SRU)
Assistant Referees: Colin Stanley (IRFU), Jonathan Peake (IRFU)
4th Official: Ed Kenny (ARLB)
5th Official: Gordon Murray (ARLB)
TMO: Tony Redmond (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2010-02-20