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Magners Preview: Scarlets v Leinster

Magners Preview: Scarlets v Leinster

Leinster have a very important assignment this weekend in terms of their Magners League title defence. Michael Cheika’s side could keep the heat on leaders Munster by winning on the province’s first ever visit to Parc y Scarlets and in doing so, dent the hosts’ own chances of lifting the league trophy.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, February 21

SCARLETS (4th) v LEINSTER (3rd), Parc y Scarlets, 5.30pm (live S4C/Setanta Sports Ireland)

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Team News: The Leinster team to face the Scarlets in Saturday evening’s Magners League tie at Parc y Scarlets has been named.

Shane Jennings has recovered from the injury that sidelined him from Ireland ‘A’ action last weekend and captains the Leinster side for their first ever visit to Parc y Scarlets.

Malcolm O’Kelly, fresh from taking his Ireland caps record to 92 games, will partner Trevor Hogan in the second row with Rocky Elsom starting at number 8.

In the back-line, Gordon D’Arcy will partner Fergus McFadden at centre, with Isa Nacewa joining Shane Horgan and full-back Girvan Dempsey in an experienced back-three.

Meanwhile, scrum half Paul O’Donohoe will make his first competitive start for the province in Llanelli. The former Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam winner has been pencilled in to partner Felipe Contepomi at half-back.

Commenting on Saturday’s game, Contepomi said: “We took great heart from our win last year at Stradey Park and it is vital that we approach this game in the same manner.

“Llanelli are a fantastic team. They are in third position in the league and will only be missing a few players who will be involved with Wales.

“They have attacking threats in every position and we have great respect for them. Are these games you enjoy? I’m not too sure ‘enjoy’ is the right word because these games are never easy.

“The Scarlets are the kind of team who can score tries against you at any time. They play a fast, attacking game and I remember last season’s game at the RDS when they scored over 50 points against us.

“I’m sure that it will be a good game to watch in an incredible new stadium. Hopefully the weather will allow us to play a good, attacking game.”

Meanwhile, the Scarlets welcome back key backs Rhys Priestland and Regan King into their starting line-up after recent injuries. Also recovering from a knock, Gavin Evans is fit enough to make the replacements bench.

However, Dafydd James and Rob Higgitt have added to the Welsh side’s growing list of absentees.

Johnathan Edwards, Simon Maling, Kees Meeuws and Gavin Thomas are all long term casualties, while Scarlets boss Nigel Davies will have to make do with the Wales quartet of hooker Matthew Rees, flanker Dafydd Jones, out-half Stephen Jones and winger Mark Jones, who are on Six Nations duty.

SCARLETS: Morgan Stoddart; Darren Daniel, Regan King, Jon Davies, Matthew Jacobs; Rhys Priestland, Martin Roberts; Iestyn Thomas, Ken Owens, Deacon Manu, Lou Reed, Dominic Day, Vernon Cooper, Simon Easterby (capt), David Lyons.

Replacements: Phil John, Mahonri Schwalger, Josh Turnbull, Rob McCusker, Gavin Cattle, Gavin Evans, Ceiron Thomas.

LEINSTER: Girvan Dempsey; Shane Horgan, Fergus McFadden, Gordon D’Arcy, Isa Nacewa; Felipe Contepomi, Paul O’Donohoe; Cian Healy, Brian Blaney, Stan Wright, Trevor Hogan, Malcolm O’Kelly, Cameron Jowitt, Shane Jennings (capt), Rocky Elsom.

Replacements: Bernard Jackman, Ronan McCormack, Devin Toner, Stephen Keogh, Simon Keogh, Jonathan Sexton, Gary Brown.

Referee: Andy Macpherson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Matthew Alpin, Ken Bowen (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Tony Rowlands (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Scarlets to win: 5/4; Draw: 20/1; Leinster to win: 8/13 

Say What: Nigel Davies (Scarlets) – “Leinster come to us with a strong 22. They have a powerful squad with quality overseas players so they’ll be very competitive indeed this weekend.

“Given the space, time and opportunity, Leinster can be as good as any side – and I know they want to retain their Magners League title – so expect a tremendous effort from them at Parc y Scarlets.

“A couple of months ago the coaches and players spoke in detail as a group about ensuring that, by mid-February, we’d be competing strongly for the league title.

“I’m glad to say that, with five home games – including Leinster – and three away trips to come, we’re still very much in the chase.

“It’s very important that we do well in this competition so it follows that it’s important we do well in this weekend’s game. At the top now, any team which puts together a run of wins can start to pull away – and that’s what our squad is very focused on doing.

“We want to maintain the momentum we’ve had since Christmas. The boys have been working hard and they’re eager to get back into action.”

Kurt McQuilkin (Leinster defence coach) – “It can be a fairly disjointed period in the calendar (during the Six Nations), but we’ve welcomed back some of the players from Ireland camp while a number of younger players will also be putting their hands up for selection.

“Some guys will see Saturday’s game as a chance to stake a claim and that’s the culture that Cheiks (Michael Cheika) has instilled in the squad over the last few years.

“It’s a good time in the year for players to recuperate and the guys are looking very sharp in training after their week-off following the victory over Edinburgh.

“We’ve been able to do a lot of strength and conditioning work and the attitude of the players over the last few weeks has been first class.

“Having won the Magners League title last year, we know that the title race will go right down to the wire. It’s vital that you take points out of every game from here on in.

“We will need to meet every challenge from here on in head on, be positive and don’t look too far ahead of ourselves.

“The players know that in a squad as competitive as ours, you have to be ready to step up to the mark and take any opportunity that comes their way. In terms of a mid-term report, I would say that we’re in a good place.

“Certainly compared to last year, we have improved and have achieved some new goals, namely in reaching the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup. So we’re going well, but we know that we can do a lot better.”

Top Scorers: 2008/09 Magners League – Points: Scarlets: Stephen Jones 91; Leinster: Felipe Contepomi 114; Tries: Scarlets: Mark Jones, Deacon Manu, Martin Roberts, Morgan Stoddart 3 each; Leinster: Luke Fitzgerald 5


Saturday, January 7, 2006 – Scarlets 20 Leinster 18, Stradey Park
Friday, April 14, 2006 – Leinster 30 Scarlets 22, Lansdowne Road
Saturday, September 23, 2006 – Scarlets 33 Leinster 21, Stradey Park
Friday, January 26, 2007 – Leinster 44 Scarlets 34, Donnybrook
Friday, October 5, 2007 – Leinster 23 Scarlets 52, The RDS
Saturday, March 29, 2008 – Scarlets 10 Leinster 24, Stradey Park


– The Scarlets’ only defeat in their last five games since December 27 was a 29-24 loss to Harlequins in the European Cup on January 24

– The Welshmen are unbeaten at their new home ground in their last five matches, but as yet an Irish side has not lost at Parc y Scarlets. Munster won there 18-16 on November 28 and Ulster gained a 16-16 draw on December 12

– Leinster too have suffered just one reversal in their last five encounters – 19-12 to Wasps at Twickenham in the European Cup on January 17

– Leinster have won their last four games in the Magners League since losing 15-12 at Glasgow on October 24. Their only defeat in their last ten games against Welsh opponents since October 2007 was a 31-26 verdict at the Dragons on May 9 last

– Things could not be more even between the two teams with the ten previous clashes being split with five wins apiece. Leinster won 24-10 the last time they visited Llanelli