Thursday 24 January 2019

Timely boost for Blues as big guns return to fray

Leinster v The Scarlets

The RDS, Saturday 2.40 - Sky Sports 1.

Jamie Heaslip, Devin Toner and Rob Kearney will don the Leinster shirt for the first time this season as the province attempt to bounce back at home.

Where Leinster have made a habit out of being rusty on day one, they have been in rude health on day two, last starting out with a pair of duck eggs in 2003/2004.

They have gone 19 straight without loss in Simmonscourt and have not bowed down to The Scarlets at home since October 2007. All the statistics point to a hometown decision.

What's more, Leinster coach Matt O'Connor confirmed that all of their fit Ireland internationals are free of the Player Welfare Programme for tomorrow, boosting his resources from the disappointment in Glasgow.

"It's always frustrating when you've got quality guys sitting on the sidelines," he said.

"When you have four or five injuries on top of it that creates a strain you prefer not to have. They're the cards you're dealt and you've got to play them as best you can".

All of this will guarantee nothing against The Scarlets as they embrace life after Simon Easterby with an approach that is in keeping with their free-flowing ethos.

"They play with an enormous intent to attack," pointed out O'Connor.

"From that end, we'll have to make sure that we're really accurate on both sides of the ball because they scored some fantastic tries (against Ulster) last weekend".

In reality, Leinster will be more concerned with what they have to do, how they can turn around a lifeless opening round output that was short of what was needed in all areas of the game.

It all starts with acceptable levels of attitude, commitment and discipline. These basic will have to be spot-on against a Welsh club that doesn't need any encouragement to counter from deep.

This is where first-up tackles will come into play. Leinster simply cannot afford to sit on their heels and accept the contact.

They have to get ff the defensive line on cue and close down space to put pressure on the passer. Or else.

Verdict: Leinster.

Leinster: R Kearney; Z Kirchner, B Macken, I Madigan, D Fanning; J Gopperth, I Boss; J McGrath, S Cronin, M Ross, D Toner, M McCarthy, D Ryan, S Jennings, J Heaslip (capt).

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