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Leinster Rugby vs Scarlets
Guinness Pro12 Round 17
RDS Showground, Dublin,
Saturday, 4th March 2017, 19:35

Television: Live TG4/S4C

So last week's fearsome trip to Rodney Parade turned into a fairly jolly romp in the end as Leinster ran in eight tries against a hapless Dragons outfit that were booed off the pitch by their own fans.

That's makes it a remarkable 60 tries for Leinster in this last 10 games in all competitions. The news got even better for Leinster when it turned out they had gone top of the table on the night. The previous leaders Munster had been 21-6 up at half-time and a bonus point win looked a forgone conclusion. Somehow the game turned on it's head and the away team scored three tries in ten minutes and then held on to win 30-21, denying Munster even a losing bonus point, which put Leinster top. So that's all good for Leinster, except for one thing. The team that did them a favour against Munster is the team they face tomorrow evening.

The Scarlets are the form team in the league and they've bounced back remarkably after losing their first three league games of the season. The win over Munster made it 12 wins out of their last 13 games, with only a defeat away to the Ospreys at Christmas blotting their copybook. Though they didn't get out of their European pool, they did manage to beat Toulon and draw with Saracens as home, which only served to increase their confidence. Their Kiwi coach Wayne Pivac has done a quietly effective job in his three years at the club. The Scarlets were always known as entertaining flakes who could play great rugby but crumbled under real pressure. Pivac seems to have added some steel and organisation to the club and it's interesting to see that though they're scoring less tries than in previous years, they're also conceding far less. Only Munster have a better defensive record this season.

One of their stars of the season has been former Leinster lock Tadhg Beirne. Beirne left Leinster at the end of last season with only a handful of appearances to his name. They knew little enough about him in Llanelli but they took a chance and since he's broken into the team he's been a revelation. His set-piece basics are excellent but where he really stands out is his immense work-rate and he's become an important part of the pack. He is named in an unchanged team, which is no surprise considering the win last week. Other names to look out in the pack are the prolific openside James Davies and South African prop Werner Kruger, who has added some ballast to the front five this season. In the backs 21 year old out-half Dan Jones looks a terrific prospect and they have a pair useful Kiwis in Johnny Mcnicholl and skipper Hadleigh Parkes. And of course the fantastic Canadian winger DTH van der Merwe is a serious danger man who always seems to score against Leinster no matter who he's playing for.

For Leinster, there's just three changes to the team that started last week. Luke McGrath comes in to start at scrum-half in the only change to the backline, which means Joey Carbery continues at full back. In the pack Hayden Triggs and Dan Leavy come in to start. Tom Daly is fit enough to take a place on the bench alongside the Byrne twins Ed and Brian who will get the chance to take to the field together for the first time in nearly two and a half years after Ed's return from serious injury last week.

Normally there's buckets of tries between these two teams and there was nine in the meeting earlier in the season when Scarlets won 38-29. However the weather forecast is dreadful for tomorrow evening, which could see the game turn into a bit of an arm wrestle. The more settled Scarlets team will still fancy their chances, but Leinster will be determined the finish the Six Nations period with four wins from four and to head into the final five games of the league season as table toppers.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Teams Joey Carbery 15 Johnny Mcnicholl
Adam Byrne 14 Tom Williams
Zane Kirchner 13 Steff Hughes
Noel Reid 12 Hadleigh Parkes (C)
Fergus McFadden 11 DTH van der Merwe
Ross Byrne 10 Dan Jones
Luke McGrath
9 Jonathan Evans

Peter Dooley 1 Wyn Jones
Richardt Strauss (C)
2 Ryan Elias
Michael Bent 3 Werner Kruger
Ross Molony 4 Tom Price
Hayden Triggs 5 Tadhg Beirne
Rhys Ruddock 6 Aaron Shingler
Dan Leavy 7 James Davies
Jack Conan 8 Will Boyde

Replacements Bryan Byrne 16 Dafydd Hughes
Ed Byrne 17 Luke Garrett
Mike Ross 18 Nicky Thomas
Mike McCarthy 19 Rynier Bernardo
Max Deegan 20
Morgan Allen
Jamison Gibson-Park 21 Declan Smith
Tom Daly 22 Aled Thomas
Barry Daly 23 Ioan Nicholas

Not Considered
due to Injury
Jordi Murphy,
James Ryan,
Sean Cronin,
Jeremy Loughman,
Josh van der Flier,
Dominic Ryan,
Rory O'Loughlin,
Dave Kearney,
Isa Nacewa,
Peadar Timmins

Officials Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 147th competition game),
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell (SRU), Jonathan Peak (IRFU),
TMO: Tim Hayes (WRU),
Citing Commissioner: Tim Lowry (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2017-03-03