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Magners Preview: Scarlets v Leinster

Magners Preview: Scarlets v Leinster

With improved weather conditions in Llanelli and undersoil heating at the Parc y Scarlets, tonight’s Magners League encounter between the Scarlets and Leinster is set to proceed as scheduled. A second trip to Wales for Joe Schmidt’s men in the space of a week, and an important fixture ahead of their back-to-back Heineken Cup games against Clermont Auvergne.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, December 3

SCARLETS (2nd) v LEINSTER (6th), Parc y Scarlets, 7.05pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC Wales)

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Team News: Gordon D’Arcy is one of three returning Ireland internationals named in Leinster’s back-line for the trip to Llanelli, with Eoin Reddan resuming his half-back partnership with Jonathan Sexton.

D’Arcy partners Eoin O’Malley at centre, as Fergus McFadden switches to the left wing in a back-three which again includes Shane Horgan and Isa Nacewa.

Mike Ross starts in a pack containing a mix of youth and experience. Devin Toner, the province’s latest Ireland international, starts in the second row alongside skipper Leo Cullen, with Rhys Ruddock forming an exciting back row combination with Dominic Ryan and Sean O’Brien.

Leinster can call upon experience from the replacements bench with the likes of Shaun Berne, Nathan Hines and Shane Jennings all included.

Previewing Friday’s game, Ruddock said: “The two challenges facing us this week were the short five-day turnaround and obviously the poor weather which has struck the province.

“Because of the snow, training on the field has been limited, but because of the close proximity of matches we mightn’t have done an awful lot of work on our feet anyway, so we just got on with our preparations.

“It meant (that) there was one less training day, but we still had our day off after the Ospreys game and we approached our analysis and preparation as we would any other game, so it’s not an excuse.

“December’s a big month for the province and we’re all excited by the challenges ahead. We’re finishing off this part of the league season before two big European games, but we’re fully focused on this game. Nothing else matters.

“You want to be involved in all of the games and put yourself in the picture (for selection), so Friday night provides us all with another big test and one we’re looking forward to.”

The 20-year-old flanker added: “Some people might be surprised by the Scarlets’ good form this season, but you could see glimpses of the kind of results they could achieve last season and they have carried on from there.

“David Lyons is a big player for them and someone we’ll have to target because he can dominate play if he’s given time and space.

“Regan King carries a strong attacking threat and they try to play a fast, offload game which can hurt you. Their game-breakers give them good ‘go forward’ ball, so they’ll be difficult opponents on home soil.”

Meanwhile, the Scarlets will have a strong squad on duty for this crunch tie, with Wales duo Stephen Jones and Matthew Rees and Fiji captain Deacon Manu bolstering the replacements bench.

Wales’ new wing sensation George North is rested with a bruise to his shoulder picked up last weekend against New Zealand, and Scottish international Sean Lamont has also been ruled out with a bruised hip.

Flanker Josh Turnbull returns from injury, as does powerful winger Joe Ajuwa, with former Wallaby David Lyons captaining the Welsh region from the number 8 position.

The Scarlets beat Leinster 18-16 in their opening game last season at Parc y Scarlets, following on from an inspiring and emotional event to unveil the iconic bronze sculpture of Llanelli, Wales and Lions legend Ray Gravell outside the main entrance to the stadium.

SCARLETS: Dan Newton; Morgan Stoddart, Gareth Maule, Regan King, Joe Ajuwa; Rhys Priestland, Tavis Knoyle; Phil John, Ken Owens, Peter Edwards, Damian Welch, Dominic Day, Josh Turnbull, Johnathan Edwards, David Lyons (capt).

Replacements: Matthew Rees, Rhodri Jones, Deacon Manu, Rob McCusker, Ben Morgan, Martin Roberts, Stephen Jones, Scott Williams.

LEINSTER: Isa Nacewa; Shane Horgan, Eoin O’Malley, Gordon D’Arcy, Fergus McFadden; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Heinke van der Merwe, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (capt), Devin Toner, Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan, Sean O’Brien.

Replacements: Tom Sexton, Jack McGrath, Clint Newland, Nathan Hines, Shane Jennings, Paul O’Donohoe, Shaun Berne, David Kearney.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Colin Kirkhouse, Martyn Lewis (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Hugh Watkins (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Scarlets to win: 4/6; Draw: 18/1; Leinster to win: 6/5

Pre-Match Quotes: Jono Gibbes (Leinster) – “We have looked back on the Ospreys game and the two areas that we were particularly disappointed with were our scrum and our attacking lineout.

“We were disappointed that we weren’t clinical enough in those areas, and with regard to the scrum we didn’t adjust to their tactics as quickly as we have in other games. Given the way that the Scarlets are playing right now, we have to be more clinical. No question about it.

“We played the Scarlets four times last season and you could see that they were a side in transition at that time. Their victories over London Irish in the Heineken Cup (last season) were an indication that they had real talent and you could see what they were trying to do.

“They’re building momentum in the Magners League and they have really clicked of late. They look a well-drilled outfit and their playing style has been impressive this season.

“(Former Ireland flanker) Simon Easterby has improved their defence this season and has given the Scarlets a real backbone. I played for a few years back in New Zealand with Regan (King) and I’m acutely aware of the threats that he poses. Regan will ask questions of us defensively.

“I also played with Deacon Manu and against David Lyons, so they have some really strong overseas players in their contingent alongside a good crop of Welsh players.

“It’s important we front up early. A player like Nathan (Hines) coming back, after having a really good November series with Scotland, will be a bonus because he bolsters us. Dev (Toner) has experienced Test match footy for the first time, while Seanie (O’Brien) will be itching to get a game after probably not playing as much as we would have expected with Ireland.

“Guys like that will bring a good edge and all of the international players will be appreciative of the points the boys picked up while they were away.”

Nigel Davies (Scarlets) – “The squad are really energised at the moment on the back of some good performances and are showing growing confidence and self belief – exemplified by the way we turned the game around in Aironi last weekend.

“We were frustrated we didn’t control large parts of that game. But what was pleasing is that we had enough quality to finish off when the opportunities came and secured a bonus point win away from home through by sheer ability and self belief.

“But success in the league is all about consistency and bringing that to our performances week in, week out. A win on Friday will keep us in the top section of the league and that is the target.

“We had a couple of bashings from Leinster last season, which was really frustrating for us and we’re keen to put that right. They’ll come with confidence knowing they scored well against us and we’re fully aware of how much real quality they have and that they are a big danger whatever side they bring.

“However, we like to think we are a different proposition this time round. There are a lot of good things happening here, there is self belief and solid determination in this squad, they are playing with pride for the Scarlets shirt and the competition we have is pushing things on and adding to the momentum we’ve generated so far this season.

“Our internationals were offered a week’s rest but wanted to come back early and be part of our group again. It’s great that we have proud Scarlets players with big reputations like Stephen (Jones) and Matthew (Rees) available to affect a game when required.”

Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Scarlets – Points: Rhys Priestland 80; Tries: Jonathan Davies 6; Leinster – Points: Isa Nacewa 90; Tries: Isa Nacewa 4


Friday, October 5, 2007 – Leinster 23 Scarlets 52, the RDS
Saturday, March 29, 2008 – Scarlets 10 Leinster 24, Stradey Park
Saturday, February 21, 2009 – Scarlets 17 Scarlets 31, Parc y Scarlets
Friday, May 8, 2009 – Leinster 45 Scarlets 8, the RDS
Saturday, September 5, 2009 – Scarlets 18 Leinster 16, Parc y Scarlets
Saturday, February 20, 2010 – Leinster 27 Scarlets 14, the RDS


– The Scarlets are the top try-scoring team in this season’s Magners League so far and have won five of their last six fixtures in all competitions

– The Scarlets’ only home defeat to date in the campaign was a 21-18 loss to the Ospreys in round 5

– Leinster’s six-match winning run in all competitions was halted by the Ospreys last Sunday, although the Leinstermen have still won on three of their last four visits to Wales

– The Scarlets’ only victory in their last seven encounters with Leinster was an 18-16 triumph in this equivalent fixture last season