Tuesday 12 December 2017

Scarlets wide open for blues

Expansive Welsh suit Schmidt's men down to ground

Leinster v Scarlets, RDS, Tonight (K.O 7.35), live TG4

This looks tailor-made for a five-star Leinster show as The Scarlets usually like to shoot it out in what is, essentially, a meeting of expansive minds.

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt makes eight changes to the side which whipped Benetton Treviso 42-8, bringing in a host of experienced players including Ireland internationals Seán Cronin, Eoin Reddan, Fergus McFadden and Rhys Ruddock.

There is also room for coming players. Loose-head Jack McGrath (inset) is really starting to make a mark and Dave Kearney got within a whisker of making his international debut against Wales.

"We are pleased to welcome back a few of our internationals this week though their training time with us has been limited," said Schmidt.

"Having said that, the quality they bring will hopefully help us to keep some of the momentum from last week's Treviso second-half.

"The Scarlets have proven that they can win on the road which makes them dangerous opponents, even though they will also be without some of their international players.

"They play a direct and attacking style of rugby with a lot of speed and movement in their game. Nigel Davies has the team playing in a really positive manner after a tough start to the season and they now sit just outside the semi-final spots."

The Scarlets can call on four Wales internationals and one English in the impressive shape of their regular number eight Ben Morgan, who has to settle for a seat on the bench behind Kieran Murphy.

The Welsh club is well aware that there are just five points dividing third from seventh, where they stand in the league.

Head Coach Davies said: "We're going to the RDS with every intent to win the game, and having the opportunity to welcome back a few fresh faces will give us a boost. "We've been very hard on ourselves this week, but in saying that we are competitive in every aspect in the majority of our games and we just need to ensure that we get back to where we know we can be on Friday evening."

The Scarlets are still alive in three competitions this season, having reached semi-finals of the Anglo-Welsh LV= Cup and the quarter-final of the Amlin Challenge Cup.

Verdict: Leinster

Leinster: I Nacewa; D Kearney, E O'Malley, F McFadden, F Carr; I Madigan, E Reddan; J McGrath, S Cronin, J Hagan, D Browne, D Toner, K McLaughlin (capt), S Jennings, R Ruddock.

The Scarlets: D Newton; L Williams, G Maule (capt), S Williams, A Fenby; S Jones, G Davies; R Jones, E Phillips, D Manu, S Timani, D Day, J Turnbull, J Edwards, K Murphy.

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