Leinster’s second successive home outing affords them a chance to edge closer to a home semi-final berth in the RaboDirect PRO12, with the visiting Scarlets winless outside of Wales since November.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, February 23
LEINSTER (3rd) v SCARLETS (4th), the RDS, 7.45pm (live TG4)
Team News: The Leinster team to face the Scarlets in the latest round of RaboDirect PRO12 action at the RDS on Saturday has been named.
Leo Cullen leads an inexperienced team for the province’s fourth meeting of the season with Simon Easterby’s Scarlets side.
Cullen, who was a second half replacement in the bonus point victory over Benetton Treviso last weekend, partners Ben Marshall in the second row.
Ireland international Shane Jennings is back in the starting line-up after missing the Treviso match and features in the back row alongside Jordi Murphy and Dominic Ryan, who scored a hat-trick of tries against the Italian outfit.
In the back-line, Isaac Boss links up at half-back with Noel Reid, who is one of three current Academy players in the starting line-up.
Andrew Goodman continues in the centre alongside Eoin O’Malley, while Fionn Carr, who makes his 35th appearance for his home province, joins Andrew Conway and David Kearney in the back-three.
Ian Madigan and Fergus McFadden are named amongst the replacements after their release from Ireland camp after training on Friday.
There are now over 15,300 tickets sold for Saturday’s game and tickets will be available at the ground on the night.
Tickets are also on sale online here and can be purchased from the Leinster Rugby Store (Donnybrook), Spar (Donnybrook) and Ticketmaster outlets nationwide.
Meanwhile, after winning their last three games in-a-row in Llanelli, the Scarlets are hoping to build on the positive momentum of the last three weeks and make a jump ahead of Leinster and take third place in the play-off race.
Man-of-the-match Owen Williams kicked five penalties and a drop goal in last weekend’s 18-10 defeat of Munster. Head coach Simon Easterby has made two changes to the starting line-up from that game.
Wales international Aaron Shingler returns to the back row alongside Josh Turnbull and team captain Rob McCusker, with regular out-half Aled Thomas moving to full-back in place of the injured Gareth Owen.
The young half-back combination of Williams and Aled Davies remains in place. Number 10 Williams, who turns 21 next Wednesday, will make just his eighth appearance for the region. He has already amassed 74 points this season.
LEINSTER: David Kearney; Andrew Conway, Eoin O’Malley, Andrew Goodman, Fionn Carr; Noel Reid, Isaac Boss; Jack McGrath, Aaron Dundon, Michael Bent, Leo Cullen (capt), Ben Marshall, Dominic Ryan, Shane Jennings, Jordi Murphy.
Replacements: Tom Sexton, Jack O’Connell, Jamie Hagan, Mark Flanagan, Rhys Ruddock, John Cooney, Ian Madigan, Fergus McFadden.
SCARLETS: Aled Thomas; Nick Reynolds, Gareth Maule, Adam Warren, Andy Fenby; Owen Williams, Aled Davies; Phil John, Emyr Phillips, Jacobie Adriaanse, George Earle, Johan Synman, Aaron Shingler, Josh Turnbull, Rob McCusker (capt).
Replacements: Matthew Rees, Rhodri Jones, Samson Lee, Jake Ball, Sione Timani, Gareth Davies, Kristian Phillips, Dale Ford.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Michael Black, Jonathan Peak (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Dermot Moloney (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/8; Draw: 25/1; Scarlets to win: 9/2
Pre-Match Quotes: Rhys Ruddock (Leinster) – “It was a huge honour to be asked to lead the side on my 50th appearance, and it was a great win (over Benetton Treviso) as well, more importantly because things are really hotting up at the top of the league table just now,” he told the Evening Herald.
“I thought that it was a good all-round performance by the team and it was nice to see the forwards getting on the scoresheet too.
“Seán Cronin showed a lot of pace with his first try especially, Dippy (Dominic Ryan) obviously chipped in with three tries which is a great effort for a forward, and then Leo (Auva’a) came on and took a nice score himself late on.
“We spoke all last week about focusing on our set piece, particularly our lineout, because that’s a real area of strength for Treviso. We managed to put pressure on their ball early on and thankfully got the win.
“With the way things have gone this year, between the heavy injury list and player unavailability during the international break, we’ve had to rely on the whole squad.
“As well as that, there’s a core group in the Academy who have featured fairly frequently too. So when players are unavailable, you just deal with it because there’s a huge expectation every time you put on the jersey.
“The main positive coming from missing a lot of players is that there’s now a group of young players who have gained a lot of experience.
“This game against the Scarlets is a huge one for us and a massive opportunity to stand up and stake a claim on a jersey for the remainder of the season.”
Simon Easterby (Scarlets) – “We have to go back to October 2007 to find the last time we won at the RDS, so we know we have plenty to do out there. Leinster have a very proud home record and we know from our encounters in Europe what intensity they can bring.
“We got a good win against them at the beginning of the season and that gives us heart, however we’re also well aware that we caught them a bit cold that day and you won’t see that in a Leinster team too often.
“We have learnt a lot from our performances in December and January and particularly our games against them in the Heineken Cup; we know that any mistakes from us will be capitalised on. They are a well-coached and well-drilled team.
“We are pleased with the form we have coming into this game, it will be tough but the boys have responded well and with some continuity in selection now, we are building.
“Winning against Munster last weekend, we showed there was less errors in our game. We’re not feeding the opposition and starting to reward ourselves more with good territory and field possession.”
Top Scorers – 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Leinster – Points: Ian Madigan 115; Tries: Ian Madigan 5; Scarlets – Points: Aled Thomas 77; Tries: George North 7
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, February 20, 2010 – Leinster 27 Scarlets 14, the RDS
Friday, December 3, 2010 – Scarlets 17 Leinster 17, Parc y Scarlets
Friday, March 4, 2011 – Leinster 26 Scarlets 15, the RDS
Saturday, September 24, 2011 – Scarlets 10 Leinster 15, Parc y Scarlets
Friday, February 17, 2012 – Leinster 16 Scarlets 13, the RDS
Saturday, September 1, 2012 – Scarlets 45 Leinster 20, Parc y Scarlets
– Leinster have won their last six matches in all competitions since losing 27-19 in Ulster on December 21
– The Leinstermen remain the only side with a 100% home winning record in the RaboDirect PRO12 this season
– The Scarlets have won their last three games in all competitions, but all three encounters have been played at home
– The Welshmen have slipped to four successive away defeats and have not won outside of Wales since a trip to Munster on November 25
– The Scarlets’ only victory over Leinster in their last ten meetings in all competitions since 2009 was 45-20 at Parc y Scarlets in the RaboDirect PRO12 back in September
– Their only victory on Leinster soil is their 52-23 success at the RDS in October 2007