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Heineken Cup Preview: Scarlets v Leinster

Heineken Cup Preview: Scarlets v Leinster

After conceding a try-scoring bonus point inside the first half of their 30-14 Magners League defeat at the Dragons last weekend, reigning Heineken Cup champions Leinster will return to Wales with all their big guns ready to blaze away at the unbeaten Scarlets.

HEINEKEN CUP: POOL 6: Saturday, December 12

SCARLETS (1st) v LEINSTER (2nd), Parc y Scarlets, 6pm (live Sky Sports 1)

Team News: The Leinster team to face the Scarlets in Saturday evening’s Heineken Cup Pool 6 encounter at Parc y Scarlets has been named.

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Jamie Heaslip will make his 100th appearance for Leinster in Llanelli, having been named in a strong starting line-up which includes nine Ireland internationals.

The Naas number 8 will start alongside Kevin McLaughlin and Sean O’Brien in a combative back row unit, with skipper Leo Cullen partnering Scotland international Nathan Hines in the second row.

Gordon D’Arcy partners Brian O’Driscoll in midfield, with Rob Kearney starting at full-back in an exciting back-three alongside Shane Horgan and Isa Nacewa. Eoin Reddan and Shaun Berne are the starting half-backs.

Stan Wright returns from injury for the first time in two months and takes his place on the bench alongside Ireland internationals Bernard Jackman, Mike Ross, Malcolm O’Kelly and Girvan Dempsey.

Over 1,000 Leinster supporters are expected to travel to Llanelli this weekend, continuing the outstanding support for the province both at home and on the road in recent years.

Meanwhile, the Scarlets team is virtually unchanged from last weekend’s one-point Magners League loss to Edinburgh, with emerging winger Andy Fenby declared fit after sustaining a minor hand injury.

The Scarlets bring North Walian back rower Rob McCusker onto the bench following the suspension of Josh Turnbull, registering the player with ERC this week.

As a result of bringing McCusker in, the region has to temporarily de-register one player from their Heineken Cup squad – opting for long term injury victim Regan King. De-registered players may return to the squad at a later date during the pool stages, if required.

SCARLETS: Daniel Evans; Andy Fenby, Sean Lamont, Jonathan Davies, Lee Williams; Stephen Jones, Martin Roberts; Iestyn Thomas, Ken Owens, Deacon Manu, Lou Reed, Dominic Day, Simon Easterby, Richie Pugh, David Lyons (capt).

Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Phil John, Jamie Corsi, Vernon Cooper, Rob McCusker, Tavis Knoyle, Rhys Priestland, Gareth Maule.

LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Isa Nacewa; Shaun Berne, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, John Fogarty, CJ van der Linde, Leo Cullen (capt), Nathan Hines, Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: Bernard Jackman, Mike Ross, Stan Wright, Malcolm O’Kelly, Stephen Keogh, Paul O’Donohoe, Fergus McFadden, Girvan Dempsey.

Referee: Chris White (England)
Assistant Referees: Sean Davey, Stuart Terheege (both England)
Television Match Official: David Mathews (England)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Scarlets to win: 6/4; Draw: 18/1; Leinster to win: 8/15

Pre-Match Quotes: Michael Cheika (Leinster) – “December and January are when you really make your pitch for the rest of the season – and for us that starts on December 12.

“The Scarlets are the leaders of the group and that puts them in a commanding position, while having the home leg of the back-to-back games against us first is a massive benefit to them.

“We are at the stage of the tournament where you stare at the opposition and make sure you don’t blink first – this group looks as if it will be going down to the wire.

“All the Pool 6 matches are massive for all four of us and, as far as I am concerned, the only thing that matters is that on Saturday we perform at a level to get the win at the Scarlets.

“Obviously the Scarlets are a highly efficient attacking outfit, with a very good axis at 8, 9 and 10, and lots of pace out wide and not scared to have a go – they are a high scoring attacking team and we will do some homework on them.

“We are in a situation where we are missing a few guys but also pretty happy with the way we have developed.”

Nigel Davies (Scarlets) – “They have grown as players over the last 12 months and this is a great challenge for them, but this is why they play rugby, for games like this. It is the difference between wanting to be and being a professional rugby player.

“There is a lot of pressure on these players to perform and we will be putting a lot of pressure on them ourselves. They have to front up.

“There are big expectations on them and they realise that it’s a big test but I have great belief in this group. They know what they have to do and they are looking forward to it.

“It will be a special occasion next Saturday, lots of intensity, a big noisy Parc y Scarlets crowd and the more people we can have backing us the better.

“A big home crowd is important for us. Both sides know they have to win the game and the home advantage is something we have to play with. And when our great Scarlets supporters really get going, it can make a big difference.”

Top Scorers – 2009/10 Heineken Cup: Scarlets: Points: Stephen Jones 28; Tries: Daniel Evans, Mark Jones, Lee Williams, Rhys Thomas 1 each; Leinster: Points: Jonathan Sexton 28; Tries: Kevin McLaughlin 2

Current Form – Scarlets – (Magners League): Won 18-16 at home to Leinster; Lost 19-11 away to Glasgow Warriors; Lost 22-20 at home to Munster; Lost 19-15 away to Cardiff Blues; Lost 45-24 away to Ulster; (Heineken Cup): Won 24-12 at home to Brive; Won 27-25 away to London Irish; (Magners League): Won 18-3 at home to Newport Gwent Dragons; Lost 16-10 away to Connacht; (LV= Cup): Drew 15-15 away to Harlequins; Won 32-17 at home to Worcester Warriors; (Magners League): Lost 17-16 at home to Edinburgh

Leinster – (Magners League): Lost 18-16 away to the Scarlets; Won 23-14 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Won 18-11 away to the Ospreys; Won 21-19 away to Edinburgh; Won 30-0 at home to Munster; (Heineken Cup): Lost 12-9 at home to London Irish; Won 36-13 away to Brive; (Magners League): Lost 16-14 away to Ulster; Won 23-6 at home to Cardiff Blues; Lost 30-14 away to Newport Gwent Dragons

Previous European Meetings: 3

Saturday, October 12, 1996 – Pool B – Scarlets 34 Leinster 17, Stradey Park
Saturday, September 19, 1998 – Pool A – Scarlets 27 Leinster 33, Stradey Park
Friday, November 6, 1998 – Pool A – Leinster 27 Scarlets 34, Donnybrook

Heineken Cup Records:

Scarlets –
2008/09: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2006/07: Reached the semi-finals
2005/06: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2004/05: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2003/04: Reached the quarter-finals
2002/03: Reached the quarter-finals
2001/02: Reached the semi-finals
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
1999/00: Reached the semi-finals
1998/99: Reached the quarter-finals
1997/98: Reached the quarter-final play-off
1996/97: Reached the quarter-finals

Leinster –
2008/09: Champions
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2006/07: Reached the quarter-finals
2005/06: Reached the semi-finals
2004/05: Reached the quarter-finals
2003/04: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2002/03: Reached the semi-finals
2001/02: Reached the quarter-finals
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
1998/99: Failed to qualify from Pool A
1997/98: Failed to qualify from Pool A
1996/97: Failed to qualify from Pool B
1995/96: Reached the semi-finals