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Leinster Rugby vs Llanelli Scarlets,
Donnybrook, Dublin,
26th January 2007, 19:40

After last weekend's disappointing defeat to Gloucester, it's back to the bread and butter of the Magners League. Tonight's match is a vital one for Leinster in their push for the title. If they win tonight they'll go top of the table and Ulster face a tough trip to the Ospreys tomorrow.

Llanelli are not a team to be taken lightly. Earlier in the season they beat Leinster 33-21 and had racked up four tries in the first twenty minutes. They've been in superb form in Europe too, winning six out of six in the "Group of Death" involving Ulster, Toulouse and London Irish. The pressure of competing on three fronts (they're in the semi-finals of the Anglo-Welsh cup too) took it's toll around Christmas when they lost three Magners League games in a row. However they still have two games in hand on Leinster and a win tonight would reawaken their title chances.

With the Six Nations starting next week, both teams are missing their international squad members. It's still a strong Scarlets team though. There are five changes in the forwards including a completely new backrow in James Bater, Dafydd Jones and Nathan Thomas. The experienced Vernon Cooper comes into the second row and Ken Owens starts at hooker. In the backline Matthew Watkins moves into the centre and exciting young talent Darren Daniel comes in on the wing. The pair they'll miss the most though are the half-backs Dwayne Peel and Stephen Jones who are possibly the best half-back pairing in the club game at the moment.

Leinster make a number of changes, with Felipe Contepomi the only remainder from last week's backline. Ross McCarron gets a chance to impress at full-back and Gary Brown and Luke Fitzgerald come in on the wings. Michael Berne and Kieran Lewis make up the centre parting and Guy Easterby is given a start against his old team. There is only one change in the pack though, with Cameron Jowitt starting in the second row.

Last week's performance was poor and Gloucester were deserved winners. After the brilliant performance against Edinburgh, it was a reality check. However Leinster have a strong side out tonight and they'll certainly be motivated to put things right before the break for the Six Nations.



Team: R McCarron; G Brown, K Lewis, M Berne, L Fitzgerald; F Contepomi (capt), G Easterby; S Wright, B Jackman, W Green; T Hogan, C Jowitt; S Keogh, K Gleeson, J Heaslip
Replacements: R Corrigan, B Blaney, O Finegan, D Toner/K McLaughlin, C Whitaker, C Warner/J Sexton, N Ronan

Team: Morgan Stoddart; Dafydd James, Regan King, Matthew Watkins, Darren Daniel; Ceiron Thomas, Clive Stuart-Smith; Iestyn Thomas, Ken Owens, Craig Dunlea, Vernon Cooper, Scott MacLeod, Dafydd Jones, James Bater (capt), Nathan Thomas
Replacements: Deacon Manu, Aled Gravelle, Adam Jones, Inoke Afeaki, Liam Davies, Barry Davies, Garan Evans

by Jim O'Connor, © 2007-01-26