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Heineken Cup Preview: Scarlets v Leinster

Heineken Cup Preview: Scarlets v Leinster

Leinster will go in search of an improved performance and a second pool win when they take on Simon Easterby’s Scarlets side in a much-anticipated Celtic duel on Saturday afternoon.

HEINEKEN CUP POOL 5: Saturday, October 20

SCARLETS (4th) v LEINSTER (2nd), Parc y Scarlets, 1.35pm (live Sky Sports 1/HD1/Newstalk/highlights TG4)

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Team News: The Leinster team to face the Scarlets in Saturday afternoon’s Heineken Cup round 2 match in Llanelli has been named.

Gordon D’Arcy returns to the starting line-up to earn his 209th senior cap for the province. The Wexford man, fully recovered from a rib injury, will partner Brian O’Driscoll against the Scarlets.

D’Arcy is now the most capped Leinster player of all-time having overtaken Shane Horgan in his last game against Connacht three weeks ago.

He will also incidentally equal Horgan’s European record appearance tally (87 caps) when he runs out at Parc y Scarlets.

D’Arcy’s inclusion sees Fergus McFadden switch to the right wing with Andrew Conway making way. Isa Nacewa and Ian Madigan complete the back-three, with Madigan continuing to deputise for the sidelined Rob Kearney in the number 15 jersey.

Out-half Jonathan Sexton, meanwhile, is just one point away from passing the 350-point mark in the Heineken Cup. He kicked three penalties in last Saturday’s 9-6 win over Exeter Chiefs.

The other personnel change to the team that started against Exeter sees hooker Sean Cronin, a second half replacement last weekend, join fellow Ireland internationals Cian Healy and Mike Ross in the front row.

Leo Cullen leads the team and is named again alongside Galway man Damian Browne at second row, with Jamie Heaslip, Shane Jennings and Kevin McLaughlin again forming the back row unit.

Meanwhile, the Scarlets’ joint top try scorer this season, Andy Fenby, returns to their starting line-up after recovering from a dead leg injury.

The only other change from the bruising 49-16 defeat away to Clermont Auvergne sees Gareth Maule come in to replace the injured Jonathan Davies (groin), linking up with Scott Williams in the centre.

Scarlets head coach Simon Easterby has made no changes up front, although with Sione Timani ruled out by a knee injury new Argentinian signing Tomas Vallejos looks set to make his first appearance for the region off the bench.

Morgan Stoddart is free to play after a double yellow carding last weekend and is on the bench for the Llanelli-based outfit.

SCARLETS: Liam Williams; George North, Gareth Maule, Scott Williams, Andy Fenby; Rhys Priestland, Tavis Knoyle; Phil John, Matthew Rees, Samson Lee, George Earle, Johan Snyman, Aaron Shingler, Josh Turnbull, Rob McCusker (capt).

Replacements: Ken Owens, Shaun Hopkins, Deacon Manu, Tomás Vallejos, Johnathan Edwards, Gareth Davies, Aled Thomas, Morgan Stoddart.

LEINSTER: Ian Madigan; Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Isa Nacewa; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (capt), Damian Browne, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Heinke van der Merwe, Jamie Hagan, Devin Toner, Jordi Murphy, Isaac Boss, Andrew Conway, Fionn Carr.

Referee: Greg Garner (England)
Assistant Referees: Llyr ApGeraint-Roberts, Robin Goodliffe (both England)
Television Match Official: Trevor Fisher (England)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Scarlets to win: 13/8; Draw: 20/1; Leinster to win: 8/15

Pre-Match Quotes: Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster) – “It wasn’t my greatest game last week. What that does is drive you on to right the wrongs of disappointments – albeit we did win the game – and work on those things during the week and try and get them right on the Saturday.

“I’ve done that for years. Any time I’ve felt I’ve been a bit below par, I’ve tried to come out the following week and not force things.

“It’s not about trying to work miracle plays, it’s about doing simple things well and trying to be a cog in the wheel for a victory.

“We are working hard, of that there is no doubt. Guys are training hard, there are a lot of extras going on and sometimes it is just about taking your eye off the small things and taking things for granted a little bit.

“Last week’s game allows you to focus a little bit and not take those things for granted.

“The Scarlets definitely have a talented back-line with some big ball carriers. They have a lot of guys who have played for Wales and have played well recently.

“It is not just a back-line thing. It is about pressure from the whole team when they have the ball and making sure we limit them when we can and play smart when we have the ball.”

Simon Easterby (Scarlets) – “We can’t read too much into our first result, we know that Leinster will come here with a renewed intensity and ambition not least because it’s Heineken Cup second round but they are the holders of the European Cup and showed last week against Exeter that they won’t give up that crown without a fight.

“Our games against Leinster are always highly competitive and tightly-fought contests and we know that after our fortunes in France last week, we need to get a result here this afternoon to maintain a grip on our European campaign.

“The boys have had an excellent attitude this week. After the bitter frustration last weekend in France and a lot of tired and bruised bodies – the work ethic in training, coupled with the effort and commitment they’ve shown from Monday morning to pick themselves up and refocus on this huge game, has been significant.

“With four players making their Heineken Cup debuts last weekend – Samson Lee, George Earle, Joe Snyman and Richard Kelly – there was no lack of edge, spirit, courage or determination from the boys and we can take confidence from our opening 40 minutes.

“This is a ‘must win’ game for us but one that is still firmly in our grasp. I have no doubt it will be another great Scarlets European occasion and we’ll be delighted to welcome crowds of supporters from across our region.”

Current Form – Scarlets – (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 45-20 at home to Leinster; Won 18-13 away to Glasgow Warriors; Won 24-11 away to Connacht; Lost 23-16 at home to the Ospreys; Lost 22-20 away to Benetton Treviso; Won 24-13 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; (Heineken Cup): Lost 49-16 away to Clermont Auvergne

Leinster – (RaboDirect PRO12): Lost 45-20 away to the Scarlets; Won 45-25 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Won 19-18 away to Benetton Treviso; Won 22-16 at home to Edinburgh; Lost 34-6 away to Connacht; Won 30-21 at home to Munster; (Heineken Cup): Won 9-6 at home to Exeter Chiefs

Previous European Meetings: 3

Friday, November 6, 1998 – Pool A – Leinster 27 Scarlets 34, Donnybrook
Saturday, December 12, 2009 – Pool 6 – Scarlets 7 Leinster 32, Parc y Scarlets
Saturday, December 19, 2009 – Pool 6 – Leinster 39 Scarlets 7, the RD

Match Facts And Figures –

– The Scarlets need 15 more points to collectively score 3,000 points in the Heineken Cup

– Leinster require 27 points to reach a team total of 3,000 in the Heineken Cup

– Jonathan Sexton, Leinster’s leading points scorer in the Heineken Cup, needs one more point for 350 in tournament history

– Leinster are aiming for their 17th straight victory in the Heineken Cup this weekend

– The Scarlets are winless in their last eight matches against Irish opponents in the Heineken Cup since beating Munster 24-15 in the quarter-final at the old Stradey Park on March 30, 2007

Heineken Cup Records:

Scarlets –
2011/12: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2009/10: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
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 –
2011/12: Champions
2010/11: Champions
2009/10: Reached the semi-finals
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