A victory for Leinster on Friday night against the Llanelli Scarlets will preserve the province’s 100% start to the Magners League season and also see them equal Cardiff’s record of 17 successive home wins in the league.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, October 5
LEINSTER v LLANELLI SCARLETS, RDS, 7.10pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)
Team News: Former Ireland Under-19 and Under-21 international Cillian Willis will make his first appearance for Leinster this season against the Scarlets. The 22-year-old Willis was an unused replacement for the recent wins over Edinburgh and Cardiff.
He steps in for the injured Chris Whitaker to partner Jonathan Sexton at half-back. Fergus McFadden, who impressed on his debut for the province last weekend, retains his place at outside centre, meaning five of Leinster’s starting backs for Friday’s game are aged 22 or younger.
Right winger Gary Brown will be making his 50th appearance for Leinster against the Scarlets.
In the pack, Argentina’s Juan Francisco Gomez starts at prop with Keith Gleeson coming into an all Irish international-back row to partner Shane Jennings and Jamie Heaslip. A decision on stand-in skipper Leo Cullen’s fitness will be made closer to kick-off, with 6ft 10in youngster Devin Toner waiting to deputise for him.
Meanwhile, scrum half Liam Davies and flanker Jonathan Edwards will make their first Magners League starts of the season for the Scarlets in Dublin.
Davies replaces Gavin Cattle while captain James Bater switches to the blindside to make way for flyer Edwards on the openside, with Dafydd Jones moving to number eight as Nathan Thomas drops out of the squad.
The only other change to the starting line-up sees Deacon Manu return to the front row in place of Ben Broster.
Leinster: Rob Kearney; Gary Brown, Fergus McFadden, Christian Warner, Luke Fitzgerald; Jonathan Sexton, Cillian Willis; Juan Francisco Gomez, Bernard Jackman, Stephen Knoop, Trevor Hogan, Leo Cullen (capt)/Devin Toner, Shane Jennings, Keith Gleeson, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Brian Blaney, Stan Wright, Devin Toner/Cian Healy, Cameron Jowitt, Stephen Keogh, Chris Keane, Ross McCarron.
Llanelli: Morgan Stoddart; Garan Evans, Regan King, Gavin Evans, Matthew Watkins; Rhys Priestland, Liam Davies; Phil John, James Hayter, Deacon Manu, Vernon Cooper, Adam Eustace, James Bater (capt), Jonathan Edwards, Dafydd Jones.
Replacements: Iestyn Thomas, Ken Owens, Lou Reed, Gavin Thomas, Gavin Cattle, Jon Davies, Nathan Brew.
Referee: James Jones (Wales)
Coach Speak: Michael Cheika (Leinster) – “Even without their Welsh World Cup players, the Scarlets always pose a threat to us. It will be an interesting game because we play very much the same way.
There will be some interesting battles where they’ll have their experience in a player like Regan King against our youth, like Fergus McFadden. So there are going to be some good match-ups.”
Phil Davies (Llanelli) – “Leinster will be a tough side to beat and they are well coached. The RDS is a fantastic surface to play rugby on so we are certainly looking forward to the game.
“We are aware that Leinster are a step-up. Their win at the Blues last week was an impressive performance and they are a hugely impressive team.”
Match Odds: Paddy Power – To Win: Leinster 1/5, Llanelli 3/1; Draw: 25/1
PREVIOUS LEAGUE MEETINGS:
November 7, 2003: Leinster 31 Llanelli Scarlets 20, Donnybrook
April 16, 2004: Llanelli Scarlets 51 Leinster 20, Stradey Park
November 14, 2004: Llanelli Scarlets 24 Leinster 22, Racecourse Ground
March 25, 2005: Leinster 31 Llanelli Scarlets 25, Lansdowne Road
January 7, 2006: Llanelli Scarlets 20 Leinster 18, Stradey Park
April 14, 2006: Leinster 30 Llanelli Scarlets 22, Lansdowne Road
September 23, 2006: Llanelli Scarlets 33 Leinster 21, Stradey Park
January 26, 2007: Leinster 44 Llanelli Scarlets 34, Donnybrook
– After stopping the Cardiff Blues’ record home winning run last Friday, Leinster now have the opportunity to equal the Blues mark with a 17th successive home win in the Magners League
– Leinster’s only home defeat since March 2005 was a 27-13 loss to Edinburgh at Donnybrook in November 2005
– The Llanelli Scarlets have lost seven of their last eight games in the league, whilst the Scarlets’ only league victory in Ireland since February 2005 was a 37-15 win at Connacht on September 15, 2006
– All eight previous encounters between these teams have gone the way of the home side on the day