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Leinster Rugby vs Scarlets
Rabodirect Pro12 Round 9,
RDS Showground, Dublin,
Saturday, 30th November 2013, 19:15

Television: Live - TG4

What a bloody sickener!!

Some defeats you can brush off, but Ireland's last-second loss to New Zealand last Sunday will stay with all true rugby fans on this island forever.

So close and yet so far, you can only hope that the quality of their performance in pushing the best team in the world to their very limit, will finally convince this Ireland team they can compete with the very best. We've been here before though, great one-off performances followed by a slump back into mediocrity. Coach Joe Schmidt's challenge is to reproduce that kind of intensity combined with accuracy that made the first 40 minutes perhaps the finest half of rugby Ireland have ever played. If he can find a way to do that on a regular basis, then Ireland will be a force to be reckoned with again in the Six Nations.

While the drama was unfolding in Dublin, Leinster were quietly going about their business of securing an excellent away win in Treviso. With the amount of players missing due to international commitments and injury, coach Matt O'Connor had to put out a fairly patch-work team but they went to Italy and came away with another one-point win, same as last season. As it was shown last term, the points gained when the internationals are away are crucial to winning the league and Leinster have now moved up to third in the table, five behind leaders Munster.

Their opponents tomorrow evening, the Scarlets, have also been in pretty form good recently. After a poor enough start to the season, they've only lost one of their last five games in the league. This has seen them move up to sixth in the table. In the toughest European pool of the season, featuring Clermont, Racing Metro and Harlequins, they've been quite superb. Their win away to Harlequins was the performance of the first round and they followed that up with a creditable draw at home to Racing.

While Leinster are missing some players who are rested after the recent internationals, Wales actually have a game against Australia tomorrow. So the Scarlets must do without Scott Williams, Rhodri Jones, Ken Owens, Samson Lee, Rhodri Williams, Rhys Priestland and Liam Williams who are all in the match-day Welsh squad.

The Scarlets have named a side with just two changes to the starting line-up that beat Connacht in Galway last week. Scotland international John Barclay returns after international duty to replace Josh Turnbull at open-side flanker. The other change is in the second row where Jo Snyman replaces the concussed George Earle. The backline is unchanged so new signing Frazier Climo from New Zealand gets another chance to impress on the wing after scoring a try on his debut last week. The hugely experienced Phil John captains the team from loosehead prop.

For Leinster it's another tricky job managing player resources, especially ahead of their vital double-header against Northampton coming up next week. Some of the internationals with a heavier workload like Jamie Heaslip, Sean O'Brien and Cian Healy are given a well-deserved rest. But they are able to welcome back Gordon D'Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald, Ian Madigan, Jack McGrath and Mike McCarthy to the starting line-up with Sean Cronin and Mike Ross taking a spot on the bench. Perhaps the best news though is the reappearance of Leo Cullen who has recovered from injury to be named in the second row alongside McCarthy. With the tough run of games coming up over the next two months Cullen's leadership and experience will be vital.

In all there are 10 changes to the team that started last week. In the back row Rhys Ruddock is the only one to retain his place, deservedly so after a storming match last week. At number eight Jordi Murphy makes his first start since September after recovering from his injury problems and Shane Jennings completes the unit on the open-side. As Cullen presumably won't last the full 80 minutes on his first match this season, Jennings wisely retains the captaincy. Jack McGrath, rumoured to be on his way to Ulster at the end of the season, comes into the front row alongside Aaron Dundon and Martin Moore.

In the backline Fitzgerald makes up a back three with Zane Kirchner and Lote Tuqiri while Brendan Macken retains the number 13 jersey alongside D'Arcy. Ian Madigan and Eoin Reddan are named at half-back and once again Madigan will be looking to put in a big performance to put himself in the frame to start the Heineken Cup game next week.

In the first match of this season Leinster travelled to Scarlets possibly fearing a hammering but instead they inflicted one on the home side beating them 42-19. It probably won't be as big a scoreline this time but with the strength of the sides, Leinster should run out winners tomorrow evening.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby

Scarlets
Teams Zane Kirchner 15 Gareth Owen
Lote Tuqiri 14 Nick Reynolds
Brendan Macken 13 Gareth Maule
Gordon D'Arcy 12 Adam Warren
Luke Fitzgerald 11 Frazier Climo
Ian Madigan 10 Aled Thomas
Eoin Reddan 9 Gareth Davies

Jack McGrath 1 Phil John (C)
Aaron Dundon 2 Kirby Myhill
Martin Moore 3 Jacobie Adriaanse
Leo Cullen 4 Jake Ball
Mike McCarthy 5 Jo Snyman
Rhys Ruddock 6 Aaron Shingler
Shane Jennings (C) 7 John Barclay
Jordi Murphy 8 Sione Timani

Replacements Sean Cronin 16 Emyr Philips
Michael Bent 17 Rob Evans
Mike Ross 18 Horatiu Pungea
Tom Denton 19 Richard Kelly
Dominic Ryan 20
Josh Turnbull
Luke McGrath 21 Aled Davies
Jimmy Gopperth 22 Josh Lewis
Darragh Fanning 23 Jordan Williams

Not Considered
due to Injury
Edward Byrne,
Adam Byrne,
Andrew Goodman,
Richardt Strauss,
Fergus McFadden,
Brian O'Driscoll,
Rob Kearney,
David Kearney

Jonathan Davies,
George Earle,
Rob McCusker
Officials Referee: Ian Davies (WRU),
Assistant Referees: Stuart Gaffikin, Stuart Douglas (both IRFU),
4th Official: Barry O'Keeffe (Leinster Rugby Referees),
5th Official: Colm Roche (Leinster Rugby Referees),
TMO: Kevin Beggs (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2013-11-29

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