Friday, September 12, 2014

Preview : Leinster v Scarlets


SCARLETS : 15 Liam Williams, 14 Harry Robinson, 13 Gareth Owen, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Jordan Williams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Rhodri Williams, 1 Phil John, 2 Ken Owens ©, Rhodri Jones, 4 Jake Ball, 5 Johan Snyman, 6 Aaron Shingler, 7 John Barclay, 8 Rory Pitman
Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Rob Evans, Peter Edwards, Richard Kelly, Rob McCusker, Aled Davies, Steven Shingler, Adam Warren

Thanks to those who gave good feedback on my little rant yesterday; it was just something that bothered me about the way some were talking about round one of the new Pro12 campaign.  

But I have gotten it off my chest now and promise not to harp on it again.  I am very much looking forward to the season ahead and hope that it is enjoyed throughout the league.

Tomorrow I get to use my shiny new 2014/15 season ticket for the first time, and with the weather promising to behave it should make for a great occasion.  

Do I have a problem with the 2:40pm kickoff time?  Meh, not really.  Might not be ideal for most but being a rugby nerd I appreciate what Sky are doing with the time and put it down to being a consequence of being one of the top drawing clubs in the competition.

Obviously the names that jump off the team sheet are those of Kearney the Elder, Devin Toner and captain Jamie, and their returns are most welcome.

But what intrigues me most about the selection is Cian Healy going down to the bench.  Sure, there's a good chance his game time is being monitored by the protection programme, but given that Mike Ross starts I can't help but wonder if it was down to his performance last Saturday.

Not that everyone who played poorly paid a price, however.  Much will be expected from our halfback pairing of Isaac Boss and Jimmy Gopperth and if either had been even 10% more on their game at the weekend maybe we could well have come away with more than one point.

Although I'm delighted to see Eoin Reddan able to make the bench after his injury, it happens at the expense of Luke McGrath being put into a limbo of sorts and I sincerely hope this doesn't mean the youngster hasn't a hope of making our Champions Cup matchday 23 once the other two are fit.

I suppose what I will be looking for from the boys in blue tomorrow is basically everything we did not see last time around, like first-up tackles being made and offensive strategy being more adventurous.

Ian Madigan gets to start and that is of course a good thing, but it seems clear that had Noel Reid not been injured then the 12, 13 and 22 jumpers would have been filled as they were in Glasgow.  Still, this is a great opportunity for him to show what he can do at inside centre, particularly with someone with the calibre of Scott Williams opposite.

In the pack while we lose quite a bit in Sean O'Brien (who would no doubt be chomping at the bit to get back on the pitch after Scotstoun) the addition of Jamie and Devin will definitely offset the loss and in particular our lineout should provide a reliable supply of front foot ball.

As for the Scarlets, I didn't get a chance to watch their match with Ulster in full but reports suggest this lad Rory Pitman at number 8 is worth a look so we'll see how he stacks up against the champions in a decent enough back row that includes Aaron Shingler and John Barclay.

A key for Leinster offensively will be what we do out of the ordinary.  I don't see Brendan Macken getting much of the ball with wingers cutting infield and crash-carriers likely to be preferred options more often than not.  But if he does manage to find himself a bit of space there could be a try in for him once he backs himself.

Our bench is a little light in experience in jumpers 22 and 23 so maybe Matt is hoping to get full shifts from his starters.  The replacement forwards, on the other hand, are well capable of making an impact and I can see all of them being used at some point.

While all the clichés about "nothing is ever won in September" are well and good, there is always something special about opening day at the RDS and a cohesive overall performance isn't exactly too much for the home faithful to expect.

I'm loathe to make actual match predictions this season, especially when I haven't seen the opposition in action yet, but my gut is telling me we will put one in the win column, though the Scarlets have been known to make us fight for every point at the RDS and this could be no exception.  It might take a late score to seal it for us.

Hopefully you can make it to Ballsbridge tomorrow and if so, might see you there! JLP

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