Stradey Park will play host to a top of the table clash on Saturday evening as leaders Leinster come up against the Llanelli Scarlets in what is a real ‘ten pointer.’
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, March 29
LLANELLI SCARLETS v LEINSTER, Stradey Park, 5.30pm (live Setanta Sports 2/S4C/deferred coverage Setanta Sports Ireland)
Team News: The Leinster team to face the Llanelli Scarlets in Saturday evening’s Magners League clash at Stradey Park has been named.
Malcolm O’Kelly will become the most capped Leinster player of all time when he lines up for his 140th appearance. The five-time capped British & Irish Lion, who is also Ireland’s record caps holder with 91, made his provincial debut 13 years ago.
He starts in the second row alongside another player making a landmark appearance, Leo Cullen, who will gain his 100th cap for the province as captain.
In all there are three changes to the team that started last weekend’s 34-18 victory over the Glasgow Warriors. Jonathan Sexton starts at out-half with Felipe Contepomi moving to inside centre to partner Michael Berne.
Shane Horgan, who scored a brace of tries last Friday, again forms a lively-looking back three alongside Luke Fitzgerald and full-back Rob Kearney.
In the third change, Stephen Keogh starts in the back row alongside Shane Jennings and Jamie Heaslip.
Girvan Dempsey has recovered from a hip injury and is named on a strong replacements panel, which has two positions to be confirmed closer to kick-off.
For the visit of Leinster, the Scarlets have made four changes to the side that started last Friday’s impressive 35-17 dismissal of Welsh rivals Cardiff Blues.
Ireland flanker Simon Easterby remains sidelined with a knee injury so Wales scrum half Dwayne Peel will continue as the Scarlets’ stand-in captain.
Three of the changes are in the forwards with props Phil John and Bruce Douglas stepping in for Iestyn Thomas and the suspended Deacon Manu, while Scottish international Scott MacLeod takes Adam Eustance’s place in the second row.
Manu has been suspended for two weeks for a dangerous ‘shoulder charge’ challenge on Cardiff Blues flanker Robin Sowden-Taylor during the sides’ clash at Stradey Park last week.
Scarlets boss Phil Davies has made one change to his back-line with Nathan Brew making away for Wales’ Grand Slam winger Mark Jones.
LLANELLI SCARLETS: Morgan Stoddart; Dafydd James, Regan King, Gavin Evans, Mark Jones; Stephen Jones, Dwayne Peel (capt); Phil John, Mahronri Schwalger, Bruce Douglas, Lou Reed, Scott MacLeod, Dafydd Jones, Gavin Thomas, Alix Popham.
Replacements: Ben Broster, Matthew Rees, Adam Eustace, Nathan Thomas, Gavin Cattle, Ceiron Thomas, Matthew Watkins.
LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Shane Horgan, Michael Berne, Felipe Contepomi, Luke Fitzgerald; Jonathan Sexton, Chris Whitaker; Ollie Le Roux, Bernard Jackman, Stan Wright, Leo Cullen (capt), Malcolm O’Kelly, Stephen Keogh, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Brian Blaney, Cian Healy/Stephen Knoop, Trevor Hogan, Cameron Jowitt/Keith Gleeson, Chris Keane, Christian Warner, Girvan Dempsey.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Say What: Leo Cullen (Leinster) – “Llanelli away has traditionally been a difficult tie for us, but I do remember winning at Stradey Park (19-17) in the 2001/02 season. Over the years we have also taken a bit of a walloping too, so it’s a tough place to go.
“On Saturday we will need to be ready for a dogfight and be streetwise because they have a very good record at home. Llanelli is a classic rugby environment. I faced them last year and they were probably the form team in Europe at the time.
“Their support that day was incredible and out of all of the grounds in Wales, Stradey probably holds the most tradition. They’re a very proud club so we will need to be disciplined.
“We will be conscious of the defeat we suffered earlier this season and though that day still hurts, you have to respect the ability of any side that can do that to you. Since then our form has been good in the league.
“We won well in Cardiff and perhaps caught the Ospreys on a good day and followed that up with a good win in Cork against Munster. More recently we really dug deep to win in Connacht.
“Our form this season on the road has generally been consistent. It is a cliché, but we have to focus on every game individually from here on in.”
Phil Davies (Llanelli Scarlets) – “It’ll take a lot of application and effort to stay where we are (in the Magners League), let alone climb higher.
“We have to win all our games, but in the league anything can happen.
“We’ll learn from this season, we’re building a platform to be competitive in all competitions in coming years.”
Top Scorers: 2007/08 Magners League – Points: Llanelli Scarlets: Rhys Priestland 105; Leinster: Felipe Contepomi 80; Tries: Llanelli Scarlets: Regan King 7; Leinster: Luke Fitzgerald, Jamie Heaslip, Shane Horgan 5 each.
PREVIOUS LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, November 7, 2003 – Leinster 31 Llanelli Scarlets 20, Donnybrook
Friday, April 16, 2004 – Llanelli Scarlets 51 Leinster 20, Stradey Park
Sunday, November 14, 2004 – Llanelli Scarlets 24 Leinster 22, Racecourse Ground
Friday, March 25, 2005 – Leinster 31 Llanelli Scarlets 25, Lansdowne Road
Saturday, January 7, 2006 – Llanelli Scarlets 20 Leinster 18, Stradey Park
Friday, April 14, 2006 – Leinster 30 Llanelli Scarlets 22, Lansdowne Road
Saturday, September 23, 2006 – Llanelli Scarlets 33 Leinster 21, Stradey Park
Friday, January 26, 2007 – Leinster 44 Llanelli Scarlets 34, Donnybrook
Friday, October 5, 2007 – Leinster 23 Llanelli Scarlets 52, The RDS
– Llanelli Scarlets have won their last five Magners League games at Stradey Park since the Dragons won there 30-23 on September 1
– The Scarlets have lost their last four matches in all competitions against the Irish provinces. Leinster, who are flying high at the top of the Magners League have won their last eight matches in the competition
– Leinster have suffered just one reversal at the hands of the Welsh regions this season – a 52-23 loss at home to this weekend’s opponents, the Scarlets, on October 5
– The Scarlets have the chance to be the first team to achieve a league double in the same season in the series of matches between these two teams