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Saturday 25 March 2017

The turnover kings collide

Leinster's Leavy and the Scarlets' Davies lead the League in steals

Dan Leavy of Leinster scores highly in steals. Pic: Sportsfile
Dan Leavy of Leinster scores highly in steals. Pic: Sportsfile

Leo Cullen would be well-advised to have a word in the ear of Nigel Owens ahead of this crucial clash with the Scarlets.

The Leinster coach left a suspicious impression over the legality of the Scarlets' work at the breakdown, especially that of James Davies, citing the Welsh region as seeing more yellow cards than any other club in the PRO12.

The battle of the turnover kings will go a long way towards deciding whether Leinster or their guests emerge with the points from The RDS this evening.

The League Opta statistics reveal how Scarlets openside Davies and Leinster's Dan Leavy have stooped to conquer at the breakdown.

Twenty-six-year-old Davies (20) holds the minimum advantage over Leavy (19) with the Ospreys' Ollie Griffiths (15) in third in this vital game-changing area of rugby union. It could be well-argued that Leavy's four turnovers in his last appearance for the province was the reason Joe Schmidt had him as 24th man against France.

"I thought Dan did really well (against Edinburgh)," said Leinster coach Leo Cullen. "Dan got man of the match and went really, really well.

"He got back into the national squad and he's making really good progress.

Threat

"Again, it's another really good chance for him against a quality back row. They have a lot of threat to the ball."

The Scarlets are on a champion run of 12 wins from their last 13 with former Wales out-half Stephen Jones, their backs coach, and forwards coach Ioan Cunningham signing extended contracts this week.

They haven't found form from being timid over the ball.

"Aaron Shingler has been around a bit longer, but Will Boyde and James Davies, the two of them in particular, have a very strong presence at the ball," continued Cullen.

"It's a big game for Dan, a big game for all our back-rowers, a big game for all of our players. We're coming up against a good team that are in really good form."

It came with a caveat when pressed on what Davies does so well to get such rewards over the ball.

"He plays on the edge, probably," said Cullen.

"We're lucky, we have a very good, strong official at the weekend, so I think it will be a challenging game."

Of course, Owens reigns supreme as the PRO12's best referee. However, the Welsh whistler's tendency to let the game flow means he lets a lot go at the breakdown.

Leinster: J Carbery; A Byrne, Z Kirchner, N Reid, F McFadden; R Byrne, L McGrath; P Dooley, R Strauss (capt), M Bent, R Molony, H Triggs, R Ruddock, D Leavy, J Conan.

Scarlets: J McNicholl, DTH van der Merwe, S Hughes, H Parkes (capt), T Williams; D Jones, J Evans; W Jones, R Elias, W Kruger, T Price, T Beirne, A Shingler, J Davies, W Boyde.

Verdict: Leinster.

pro12: leinster v Scarlets, The RDS, Tonight (KO: 7.35 TG4)

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