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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Scarlets v Leinster

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Scarlets v Leinster

For the second year running Leinster begin their RaboDirect PRO12 challenge with an away trip to the Scarlets. Last season they fell to a 45-20 defeat in Llanelli, a result they will be determined to reverse in Matt O’Connor’s first competitive game in charge.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, September 6

SCARLETS v LEINSTER, Parc y Scarlets, 7.05pm (live BBC 2 Wales/www.rte.ie stream)

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Team News: The Leinster team to face the Scarlets in Friday night’s opening match of the RaboDirect PRO12 season in Llanelli has been named.

Leinster are boosted by the timely return of several senior players for the trip to Parc y Scarlets which marks Matt O’Connor’s first competitive game in charge of the province.

Jimmy Gopperth will make his senior debut at half-back alongside Eoin Reddan, who is fresh from his successful return last weekend against Northampton Saints to make his 80th Leinster appearance.

Gordon D’Arcy returns to the starting line-up after missing the PRO12 and Amlin Challenge Cup final victories last May and the Wexford man will combine in the centre withFergus McFadden.

The fit-again Luke Fitzgerald, who will make his first appearance since March, forms an exciting back-three with David Kearney and the back-line’s second debutant, St. Mary’s College captain Darragh Fanning.

Up front, Shane Jennings leads the team and is one of four Ireland internationals in the pack.

There are two Leinster Academy prop graduates Jack McGrath and Martin Moore named in the front row, while Mike Ross and summer signing Mike McCarthy are listed on the bench.

There will be live coverage of the game on BBC 2 Wales and www.rte.ie/live, with the Leinster Twitter page also providing updates throughout the 80 minutes.

Meanwhile, it will be a warm welcome back to the Scarlets team in front of a lively home crowd for the region’s international out-half Rhys Priestland.

Priestland impressed last weekend in his second half performance off the bench away at Gloucester. Having returned at the end of 2012/13 season, he was sidelined once more ahead of the PRO12 semi-final against Ulster after the recurrence of an Achilles injury.

New signing Steve Shingler moves from the number 10 jersey to centre in partnership alongside Wales international Scott Williams. Regular centre Gareth Maule is out for four weeks with an injured knee.

Otherwise the starting line-up looks the same as last weekend – captain Rob McCusker leads a strong Scarlets team with plenty of depth on the bench. Lions centre Jonathan Davies (rested) and new signing John Barclay are the notable absentees.

SCARLETS: Gareth Owen; Liam Williams, Scott Williams, Steve Shingler, Kristian Phillips; Rhys Priestland, Gareth Davies; Phil John, Ken Owens, Samson Lee, George Earle, Jo Snyman, Aaron Shingler, Josh Turnbull, Rob McCusker (capt).

Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Rob Evans, Jacobie Adriaanse, Jake Ball, Craig Price, Rhodri Williams, Adam Warren, Jordan Williams.

LEINSTER: David Kearney; Darragh Fanning, Fergus McFadden, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Jimmy Gopperth, Eoin Reddan; Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin, Martin Moore, Tom Denton, Devin Toner, Rhys Ruddock, Shane Jennings (capt), Jordi Murphy.

Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Jack O’Connell, Mike Ross, Mike McCarthy, Dominic Ryan, Isaac Boss, Noel Reid, Brendan Macken.

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Ian Davies, Jon Mason (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Derek Bevan (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Scarlets to win: 4/5; Draw: 22/1; Leinster to win: Evens

Pre-Match Quotes: Eoin Reddan (Leinster) – “It was great (to get a run-out against Northampton last week). It was nice for it to go okay and I’m looking forward to this week now.

“It (my leg) didn’t dislocate against France last March. I tore some ligaments and had a break in the fibula. It was a lengthy injury, but there was nothing too crazy there that (meant) it was going to be hard to rehab. It was just getting into the hard work really.

“You kind of end up looking at the positives because you think that you can start the new season afresh. You do miss the big games that you’d want to be playing in, and that was definitely hard near the end of last season.

“At least we won them. It’s hard when you can’t contribute, but when you’re winning it does make it a bit easier. 

“He (Matt O’Connor) knows what he wants. He has incredible knowledge of the game and we want to get going early on in the year because that’s somewhere we have fallen down in the recent past. I mean we haven’t won a first game for seven seasons.

“He’s very positive, very fresh and he’s a good communicator and he’s good at teaching people what he wants them to do, which is key because knowing what you want your team to do and teaching them that are two different things.”

Simon Easterby (Scarlets) – “We need a strong start – a good result and performance like last year’s opening game gave us real momentum going into the next series of fixtures and that proved to be important in the end in helping us reach the top four.

“Resting some of the Lions players does affect Leinster slightly more than us, as they have six but we know that Leinster are always going to be competitive. They are very effective and efficient with ball in hand and will be a challenge to us.

“All teams are looking for form in their opening game and want to hit the ground running in their opening game – regardless of how long the season is.

“We’re in a very positive place as a group, fitness wise we’ve been able to pick from a near full-strength squad so that’s a bonus and the boys are eager to get going.

“It’s a great fixture for us to have first up at home for our supporters and everyone’s in a positive and upbeat mood so hopefully it will be a lively night at Parc y Scarlets.

“We feel fairly confident and are really looking forward to getting our season started now after a lot of hard work in the background on our pre-season preparations.”


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
Saturday, February 23, 2013 – Leinster 32 Scarlets 5, the RDS


– The Scarlets have been victorious in their round one encounter in the RaboDirect PRO12 four times in the past five seasons

– The Welshmen’s six-match winning run in all competitions at Parc y Scarlets ended with their 41-17 defeat to Benetton Treviso in round 22 last season

– The Scarlets’ only home reversal to an Irish province in the PRO12 since September 2011 was to Ulster last December

– Leinster begin the defence of the third PRO12 crown that they won in Dublin in May

– Incredibly the Leinstermen have only ever won their opening round game once before since the league went home and away in 2003/04 (in 2007 when they beat Edinburgh at the RDS)

– Leinster have won 12 of their last 13 PRO12 fixtures, and have been successful on both their previous visits to Wales in 2013

– The Scarlets’ lone victory over Leinster in any competition since September 2009 was in this equivalent round one match last season