Friday 15 December 2017

healy on the front foot

Leinster have to take all the points as Scarlets look to Europe for salvation

Cian Healy will make his first start for Leinster since September against The Scarlets this evening (KO5.15, Sky Sports 1).

The loose-head is joined by hooker Seán Cronin and tight-head Marty Moore as three of the five changes up front from the drab nine-all draw at The Ospreys.

Lock Mike McCarthy and flanker Dominic Ryan complete the quintet in a pack of forwards led by captain Rhys Ruddock, another looking to get Joe Schmidt's attention.


Coach Matt O'Connor has made seven changes with Luke Fitzgerald at left wing and Eoin Reddan set to continue his first-choice partnership with Jimmy Gopperth.

Overall, it is a unit containing 12 internationals with Gopperth, the rising Jack Conan and Ben Te'o thrown in as first-rate options.

The rounds are slipping by and Leinster know they cannot afford to leak too many more points.

The Scarlets are in the same position, for a different reason.

They will be loaded with the motivation of reeling in Connacht, six points ahead of them, for that coveted sixth Champions Cup slot.

Wayne Pivac inserts Scott Williams at inside centre and Johan Snyman at second row for his two personnel changes from the loss at Ravenhill.

He is only too aware of the dangers Leinster bring and was keen to highlight the commitment required.

"I'd like to think it'll be like a test match in how we treasure the ball and play field position," said Pivac.

"Leinster have been in the top four on numerous occasions in the last few years," he emphasised.

"They've done that by having depth in their squad, they probably felt a bit unlucky to come away with a draw last weekend away from home.

"They bounced back from the game against Dragons. We expect them to be fighting for the top four spot.

"We expect a big challenge from them and they bring a lot of experience with them this time of year."

The coach is confident the Champions Cup is attainable as long as The Scarlets start with a victory here.

"If we can get a win here I think we'll be fine for top six when you look at the remainder of the season," he said.


"No disrespect to the opposition we play, or Connacht play, but they've got a lot tougher run-in; they're playing teams above them, we play teams below us.

"On that basis, if we can stay in touch with them after this weekend we won't have to worry about other results too much."

Scarlets: J Williams; H Robinson, R King, S Williams, H Parkes; S Shingler, A Davies; P John, K Owens (capt), P Edwards, G Earle, J Snyman, L Rawlins, J Davies, J Barclay.

Leinster: Z Kirchner; F McFadden, B Te'o, G D'Arcy, L Fitzgerald; J Gopperth, E Reddan; C Healy, S Cronin, M Moore, M McCarthy, K Douglas, R Ruddock (capt), D Ryan, J Conan.

Verdict: Ulster

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