Leinster look for first win in Wales
A skeleton team will travel to Llanelli for coach Matt O’Connor’s first league match
Leinster’s Darragh Fanning who starts against the Scarlets this evening. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Some times the picture is clearer knowing who is not playing. Brian O’Driscoll, Jamie Heaslip, Ian Madigan, Rob Kearney, Sean O’Brien and Cian Healy are out, with Mike McCarthy and Mike Ross on the bench. That’s about half the side you might expect of a Heineken Cup weekend set up.
But Matt O’Connor will have been well briefed on life in the PRO 12 and although it’s the first match of the season, which brings its own pressures, he must do it as Joe Schmidt did before him with a patched up side.
Life without Sexton and his British and Irish Lions, it isn’t easy.
O’Connor and the watchful Madigan, however, will have a chance to see how outhalf Jimmy Gopperth handles his debut league game along side the fully recovered Eoin Reddan.
Reddan came through his return game last week against Northampton after his leg break in March.
Gordon D’Arcy also returns after injury forced him out of the sweet end of last season in the league and Amlin Challenge Cup. The Irish veteran forms a centre partnership with Fergus McFadden in the first of Leinster’s experiments at 13. Brendan Macken and Luke Fitzgerald have also been spoken about as possibleoutside centres in the absence of O’Driscoll and the retirement of Eoin O’Malley.
Exciting back three
But one of the busiest players in the squad, McFadden gets first cut at it with Fitzgerald - who will make his first appearance since March – forming an exciting back three with Dave Kearney at fullback and debutant, St Mary’s College captain Darragh Fanning.
Shane Jennings is one of four Irish capped players in the pack, with two Academy prop graduates Jack McGrath and Martin Moore named in the front row.
“Resting some of the Lions players does affect them slightly more than us, as they have six,” said Scarlet’s coach Simon Easterby.
Easterby is developing an expansive game in Llanelli and the side’s international outhalf, Rhys Priestland will apply himself to that task. Priestland looked sharp last weekend off the bench following more than 18 months out following an Achilles tendon injury.
LEINSTER: D Kearney; D Fanning, F McFadden G D’Arcy, L Fitzgerald; J Gopperth, E Reddan; J McGrath, S Cronin, M Moore, T Denton, D Toner, R Ruddock, S Jennings, J Murphy. Replacements: A Dundon, J O’Connell, M Ross, M McCarthy, D Ryan, I Boss, N Reid, B Macken.
SCARLETS: G Owen; Liam Williams, Scott Williams, Steve Shingler; Kristian Phillips; R Priestland, G Davies; P John, K Owens, S Lee, G Earle, J Snyman, A Shingler, J Turnbull, R McCusker (capt). Replacements: E Phillips, R Evans, J Adriaanse, J Ball, C Price, R Williams, A Warren, J Williams.
Referee: John Lacey (IRFU).
Verdict: Home win