Leinster coach Leo Cullen wary of Scarlets’ threat
Joey Carbery being picked at fullback gives Irish province an added dimension in attack
Joey Carbery starts at fullback for Leinster against Scarlets. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho.
Leinster v Scarlets
RDS, Saturday, 7.35pm (Live TG4)
On the assumption that every match is tough and the best players perform on the edge, Leo Cullen’s observation that Scarlets’ push the boundaries brings a sharper focus to the weekend challenge.
Cullen reminded that Scarlets top the yellow card table in the Pro12 and for good reason. Those aspects of their game was clearly on his mind.
“Scarlets are dangerous and on a very good run of form. They are a very settled team,” said Cullen. “There are very few changes in the group and a lot of threat.
“They go very hard in the ruck and push boundaries at times. They are top of the yellow card table.”
Joey Carbery again plays at fullback rather than outhalf, where Ross Byrne is preferred to the obvious threats of Carbery. But Cullen sees it as win, win as Carbery’s flexibility gives options and Carbery at fullback can be brought into offensive positions as a second receiver.
Cullen added that in the Leinster Academy he was potentially seen as a scrumhalf too. But without the injured Isa Nacewa, Leinster need a kicker with a higher percentage return than Carbery and Byrne is that man.
Carbery starts at fullback with Adam Byrne and Fergus McFadden on the right and left wings and scrumhalf Luke McGrath partnering Byrne.
In the backrow Dan Leavy faces a challenging game at openside, having been 24th man last weekend with Ireland, with Rhys Ruddock and last week’s man of the match Jack Conan continuing at six and eight respectively.
Scarlets are unchanged from last week, where they secured their first win against Munster at Thomond Park in 14 years. That’s quite a force of momentum for Wayne Pivac’s side, who face a suites of international players in the Leinster backrow, an area where Scarlets’ James Davies has been strong.
“He plays on the edge, probably,” said Cullen of Davies. “We’re lucky, we have a very good, strong official at the weekend. I think it will be a challenging game.”
LEINSTER: J Carbery; A Byrne, Z Kirchner, N Reid, F McFadden; R Byrne, L McGrath; P Dooley, R Strauss (capt), M Bent, R Molony, H Triggs, R Ruddock, D Leavy, J Conan. Replacements: B Byrne, E Byrne, M Ross, M McCarthy, M Deegan, J Gibson-Park, T Daly, B Daly.
SCARLETS: J Mcnicholl, T Williams, S Hughes, H Parkes (capt), DTH van der Merwe, D Jones, J Evans, W Jones, R Elias, W Kruger, T Price, T Beirne, A Shingler, J Davies, W Boyde. Replacements: D Hughes, L Garrett, N Thomas, R Bernardo, M Allen, D Smith, A Thomas, I Nicholas
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
Verdict: Home win.