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Monday 10 December 2018

Cullen to get first run at RDS

Leinster's Leo Cullen. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Leinster's Leo Cullen. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

LEO CULLEN will make his seasonal debut for Leinster following surgery to his heel in September.

Gordon D'Arcy's durability will be put to the test as he is the only Ireland starter from last week to line out tomorrow.

Prop Jack McGrath and fly-half Ian Madigan will also have the chance to put the torture of last Sunday out of their minds as they are selected in a very strong side given how many players are unavailable.

Ireland hooker Seán Cronin and tight head Mike Ross will be triggered from the bench as they look to maintain their form against New Zealand

It must be difficult to make the mental switch from going toe-to-toe with the best team in the planet to a run-of-the-mill PRO12 League encounter.

Leinster are better off without a host of frontline internationals for this one, especially when the second tier of players have done so well at the Dragons and Treviso.

In that time, stand-in captain Rhys Ruddock made a significant statement about where he stands in the queue for international honours.

He was the standout figure in Treviso, though out-half Jimmy Gopperth proved to be the match winner with three late points to rescue four from the Italians.

Like Ruddock, Lote Tuqiri has had his time at Leinster soiled by injury, his hamstring holding out well on Sunday when he produced a performance more in keeping with his reputation.

The dread of injury is what keeps so many players from reaching their potential. A run of games can do wonders for confidence and profile.

Matt O'Connor's Leinster have been able to win without playing anywhere near their potential, leaking 1.5 tries on average and scoring a little more than two-per-game.

To win while not at their best is a good sign. But, it is about time they started to show what they are really about if they are to reclaim the European trophy that was last theirs in 2012.

Leinster have won their last five contests in League and Cup as a reaction to losing out physically, more than anything else, to Munster at Thomond Park.

The statistics are piled high against The Scarlets because they have beaten Leinster just once in their last 12 encounters, their last win at the RDS coming as far back as October 2007.

Verdict: Leinster

Leinster: Z Kirchner; L Tuqiri, B Macken, G D'Arcy, L Fitzgerald; I Madigan, E Reddan; J McGrath, A Dundon, M Moore, L Cullen, M McCarthy, R Ruddock, S Jennings (capt) J Murphy.

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