Friday, September 07, 2018

Preview : Scarlets v Leinster


Scarlets??? Again???  Haven't we already played them a gagillion times this year???  

Well, if a gagillion means 'four', then yes.  Saturday's clash at Parc y Scarlets will be the fifth meeting between the leading Pro14 contenders since February 17, 2018 so I think I might be taking my 'Those Pesky..." tag from the Ospreys and sending it in the direction of Llanelli.

And while a lot of teams who had taken maximum points from the first of two tricky away fixtures in Wales might be happy to settle for that and strategically take the foot off the pedal for the second, Leinster's matchday squad for this one suggests anything but.  We're clearly gunning for two out of two.

In our Cardiff writeup on Monday I said I'd like to see some of the bench who played such a role in that comeback victory rewarded with starts in Week 2.  Well that has happened to an extent as both Jamison Gibson-Park and Fergus McFadden make the XV, but now I'm kind of glad there aren't more because instead there are a lot more from the 'elite' squad than I expected, a decision that underlines the importance of this fixture as far as the league is concerned.

The standout names on the teamsheet for me are the first string front row.  We didn't get so much as a single put in at the Arms Park, even being denied a scrum right at the end as Nigel chose to call time (arguably) a fraction early, and this is just the kind of fixture this trio need to prepare for big matches to come in both October in blue and November in green.

Next we have Robbie Henshaw slotting in at 12...many of our problems last week stemmed from that channel and he's just the man to fix them.  Of course Joe Tomane is far from out of the picture despite the below-standard coverage on his competitive debut and he should be keen to come on and make an impact late on.

Speaking of making an impact, Scott Fardy's exclusion means there's room under what I call the 'ANZAC rule' for James Lowe to kick off his campaign.  Many Leinster fans could need reminding that he didn't actually start last season for us, such was the effect of his flamboyant approach to wing play which we will no doubt see again.

In our back row, skipper Rhys Ruddock and the returning Jack Conan will provide a lot of heft to the carrying and breakdown work but I'll be looking to Josh Murphy to show his value to our embarrassment of riches in these positions - he did well last week and this is a perfect chance for him to improve even more.

On the Scarlets' side of the ball, they have the usual threats such as Leigh Halfpenny, Hadleigh Parkes and the extremely pesky James Davies, and despite the massive Tadhg Beirne-shaped hole in their player pool, can definitely count on the culture of positive rugby instilled in them by Wayne Pivac to give them the confidence to stand up to their illustrious opposition.

As always, I want to see solid set pieces and defensive concentration, and the presence of so many experienced test players makes these expectations even greater.  The bookies have us winning by just one point again...I think this is an absolutely preposterous under-estimation!  Surely we'll win by twice as much with that, and such is my prediction! 😜

Here's to any kind of victory for the boys in blue and while it should be tight, it would be a lot better for my nerves if we could do it without having to come from so far behind this time around!  Hope to see you on the Twitter machine throughout the match.  JLP

PS Best of luck as well to the Leinster Women who play Connacht on Sunday, and also to Leinster 'A' who kick off their Celtic Cup campaign (the British & Irish Cup replacement) against Ulster tonight.

Also if you're like me and tend to schedule your whole weekend around rugby on the telly, it so happens that all of Leinster's European opponents will be in action on Saturday afternoon ahead of this Scarlets match, for details check out our weekly telly rugby feature.

#COYB(and G!)IB

Scarlets : 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Tom Prydie, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies
1 Rob Evans, 2 Ken Owens ©, 3 Samson Lee, 4 Jake Ball, 5 Steve Cummins, 6 Blade Thomson, 7 James Davies, 8 Josh Macleod
Replacements; 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Phil Price, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Lewis Rawlins, 20 Ed Kennedy, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Paul Asquith, 23 Ioan Nicholas.

Guinness Pro14 2018/19 Round 2
Saturday, September 8, 2018
KO 7:35pm
Parc y Scarlets

Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
AR1: David Sutherland (Scotland)
AR2 : Wayne Davies (Wales)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)

Live on Premier Sports 1, eir sport 1 

Leinster Women v Connacht : 15. Lauren Farrell McCabe 14. Gemma Matthews 13. Michelle Claffey 12. Sene Naoupu > CAPTAIN 11. Elise O'Byrne White 10. Nikki Caughey 9. Ellen Murphy
1. Lindsey Peat 2. Emma Hooban 3. Katie O'Dwyer 4. Aoife McDermott 5. Meg Kendall 6. Jeamie Deacon 7. Juliet Short 8. Hannah O'Connor
16. Chloe Blackmore 17. Christy Haney 18. Linda Djougang 19. Mairead Holohan 20. Nicole Purdom 21. Niamh Griffin 22. Nicole Carroll 23. Hannah Tyrrell

IRFU Women’s Interprovincial Championship - Round 2
Sunday, September 9, 2018
Sportsground, Galway
Referee : Barry Moloney

Leinster ‘A’ v Ulster ‘A’ : 15. Hugo Keenan 14. Michael Silvester 13. Conor O’Brien 12. Tom Daly CAPTAIN 11. Jack Kelly 10. Harry Byrne 9. Paddy Patterson
1. Ed Byrne 2. Ronan Kelleher 3. Vakh Abdaladze 4. Ross Molony 5. Jack Dunne 6. Oisín Dowling 7. Scott Penny 8. Caelan Doris
16. Dan Sheehan 17. Giuseppe Coyne 18. Jack Aungier 19. Ronan Foley 20. Ronan Watters 21. Hugh O’Sullivan 22. David Hawkshaw 23. Liam Turner

Celtic Cup 2018 - Round 1
Friday September 7, 2018
Malone RFC
Kickoff 5pm

Referee: Joy Neville
AR1 : Chris Busby
AR2 : Richard Kerr
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