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Leinster Rugby vs Scarlets
Pro14 Conference B, Round 14
RDS Arena, Dublin,
Friday, 25th January 2019, 19:35

TV: Live on Eir Sports/TG4

Leinster completed their task of European qualification with a business-like win over Wasps last weekend. A home quarter-final against Ulster in the Aviva awaits at the end of March and Leinster this week waved goodbye to most of their internationals until then.

Now Leinster have one more game before a three week break. They take on the Scarlets, one of only three teams to have beaten Leinster this season. Since that win in the second match of the season things have fairly fallen apart for the Scarlets. After reaching the semi final of the Champions Cup and the final of the Pro14 last season, this year has seen a big drop-off in performance.

They lost five out of six matches to crash out of Europe and they've also lost four of their last six league games to fall behind Edinburgh and Benetton and out of the play-off spots in Conference B. There's no doubt they've felt the loss of John Barclay, Scott Williams and most of all Tadhg Beirne and they've also had a rough time of it with injuries to the point where Welsh international hooker Ken Owens has had to be played at number eight in the last few games. But they need to find some wins from somewhere to salvage something from Wayne Pivac's final season in charge before he takes over from Warren Gatland as Wales coach. In the circumstances Pivac has actually named a fairly decent looking team with a very experienced front five and some real dangermen in the backs in Johnny McNicholl, Kieron Fonotia and Paul Asquith.

Leo Cullen has named a strong side despite all the absentees with a couple of Ireland squad members hanging around for some much needed game time. Rob Kearney is back from injury to take his place as captain at full back with Barry Daly on the right wing and James Lowe back from suspension on the left. In the centre Conor O'Brien and Rory O'Loughlin are again named together in a physically imposing partnership. Hugh O'Sullivan makes his first start for Leinster at scrum-half and he'll partner Ciaran Frawley. In the pack Jack McGrath, James Tracy and Michael Bent are the front row with Ross Molony and Mick Kearney in the boiler room. The back row consists of Max Deegan at number six with Scott Penny at openside and Caelan Doris at number eight. On the bench Leinster Academy forward Jack Dunne will make his Leinster debut if he gets on.

The Scarlets have certainly named a strong enough side to make the match competitive but Leinster should have enough to prevail.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Teams Rob Kearney (C) 15 Johnny McNicholl
Barry Daly 14 Ioan Nicholas
Rory O'Loughlin 13 Kieron Fonotia
Conor O'Brien 12 Steff Hughes (C)
James Lowe 11 Paul Asquith
Ciaran Frawley 10 Dan Jones
Hugh O'Sullivan 9 Kieran Hardy

Jack McGrath 1 Phil Price
James Tracy 2 Marc Jones
Michael Bent 3 Werner Kruger
Ross Molony 4 Jake Ball
Mick Kearney 5 David Bulbring
Max Deegan 6 Tom Price
Scott Penny 7 Dan Davis
Caelan Doris 8 Josh Macleod

Replacements Bryan Byrne 16 Dafydd Hughes
Ed Byrne 17 Dylan Evans
Vakh Abdaladze 18 Simon Gardiner
Jack Dunne 19 Josh Helps
Oisin Dowling 20
Ed Kennedy
Jamison Gibson-Park 21 Jon Evans
Noel Reid 22 Morgan Williams
Jimmy O'Brien 23 Tom Prydie

Not Considered
due to Injury
Will Connors,
Fergus McFadden,
Joe Tomane,
Nick McCarthy,
Hugo Keenan,
Jonathan Sexton,
Dan Leavy,
Luke McGrath,
Ross Byrne

James Davies,
Will Boyde,
Tom Phillips,
Lewis Rawlins,
Steve Cummins,
Uzair Cassiem,
Blade Thomson,
Angus O'Brien,
Aaron Shingler,
Clayton Blommetjies,
Taylor Davies,
Ryan Conbeer
Officials Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR),
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (IRFU), Vincenzo Schipani (FIR),
TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2019-01-24