The Leinster squad to face the Scarlets in Saturday evening’s Heineken Cup Pool 6 showdown at Parc y Scarlets (kick-off 6pm) has been named.
Stan Wright has been added to the Leinster panel for the trip to Llanelli this weekend for the first time in two months and he is joined by eight players who were involved with Ireland over the recent November series, including recent international debutants Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien.
Nathan Hines and CJ van der Linde, who were also involved with their respective countries Scotland and South Africa, are also in contention alongside the likes of John Fogarty, Shane Horgan, Fergus McFadden, Kevin McLaughlin, Mike Ross and Devin Toner who were all involved with Ireland ‘A’ in their victories over Tonga and the Argentina Jaguares.
In addition, a number of players such as Shaun Berne, Stephen Keogh and Paul O’Donohoe, who have impressed in recent weeks in the British & Irish Cup, have been selected in the extended squad.
The Leinster team and replacements will be announced on Friday afternoon.
Over 1,000 Leinster supporters are set to travel to Llanelli this weekend, continuing the outstanding support for the province both at home and on the road in recent years.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s European encounter, Leinster coach Michael Cheika said that the squad are hungry to get back to winning ways for their second trip to Wales in six days.
“A portion of our squad got the week off last weekend so that gets everyone raring to go and fresh,” he said.
“The only injury concern that we have in that group is with Girvan Dempsey who missed the last game because of a training knock.
“We’ve got Stan Wright back, which is a good addition, well ahead of time. That’s very positive for us.
“The medical staff did a great job, but (credit) to him as well because he was so positive about getting back early. He’s probably a couple of weeks ahead of schedule and his positivity to get back for these games is outstanding.
“Obviously you’d like to have all of your best players available but we knew that through November we’d probably get one, if not two injuries. It’s just the probability of having that many players in the squad really.
“Johnny (Sexton) has become a very influential player in the team for us but we’ve got a lot of confidence in Shaun Berne and he’ll be doing the job this weekend and he’ll do it very well, I’m sure.”
He added: “The situation in the Heineken Cup now is that the teams in this group are staring each other down. It will be case of who blinks first.
“There are so many match-ups to come about now over the next two months and it’s an interesting set of circumstances because London Irish will have to go to Scarlets, the Scarlets will have to come here, Brive have to come here, we have to go to London….
“It’s going to go down to the last day. But, for us, our only possible outlook can be on going down to Llanelli and winning the match at the weekend. All of the rounds are worth four points.
“The only game that is critical to us is round 3. I know that’s quite clichéd, but round 4 mightn’t mean anything if we don’t win in round 4.”
Meanwhile, over 17,200 tickets have now been sold for next weekend’s return fixture against the Scarlets at the RDS.
A small number of tickets are still available from the Leinster Rugby Store and Spar Donnybrook. Leinster Rugby also expects to have a limited number of returned tickets on sale on www.LeinsterRugby.ie in the coming days.
LEINSTER Squad (v Scarlets) – Backs (12): Shaun Berne, Gordon D’Arcy, Girvan Dempsey, Shane Horgan, Chris Keane, Rob Kearney, Simon Keogh, Fergus McFadden, Isa Nacewa, Paul O’Donohoe, Brian O’Driscoll, Eoin Reddan.
Forwards (15): Cian Healy, Leo Cullen (capt), John Fogarty, Jamie Heaslip, Nathan Hines, Bernard Jackman, Ronan McCormack, Stephen Keogh, Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O’Brien, Malcolm O’Kelly, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, CJ van der Linde, Stan Wright.