All eyes on Tadhg Furlong as Leinster travel to Llanelli
Ireland and Lions tighthead makes return against the Scarlets on Saturday night
Tadhg Furlong returns to action for Leinster against the Scarlets on Saturday. Photograph: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho
All eyes, and particularly those of the Irish coaching staff in their Carton House base, will be on Tadhg Furlong as the Lions’ Test tighthead makes his comeback after 11 months on the sidelines in Llanelli tonight.
They have a simple wish, according to backs coach Mike Catt, namely: “Just to get some good quality game time under his belt.
“The information we’re getting back is that he has trained exceptionally well, obviously he’s an integral part of Irish rugby and our team. He’s a world class player. So (we want him to) stay safe, fit and healthy and put in a good shift and feels good on the back of it. We hope he recovers well and is able to go again.”
Without the remainder of their 17-strong contingent in Ireland’s Six Nations squad, only Luke McGrath (who captains the side) is retained in the starting line-up from last week’s win over Munster. Ryan Baird and Dan Leavy will be two others seeking to catch the attention of those eyes back in Kildare, while the richly promising, dual playmaking, 10-12 axis of Harry Byrne and Ciarán Frawley are reunited for the first time since the 40-5 win over Cardiff in November.
The Leinster forwards coach, Robin McBryde, who played 250 games for Llanelli and the Scarlets between 1994 and 2005 before becoming the Welsh forwards coach for 11 years, has provoked an angry response from some fans in his homeland with a critique of the Welsh regions.
Lamenting the lack of support for the regions compared to the Irish provinces, he said: “I still know supporters who haven’t gone back to watching rugby since regional rugby came into being. That model, from a supporting point of view, is clearly not working, is it?
“You look at the attendances in those games and they are struggling and they have been struggling for a while. We have lost that sort of connection and maybe the regions have lost that identity or maybe didn’t have that identity right from the word go really.”
That might up the ante a little.
Scarlets: Johnny McNicholl; Tom Prydie, Tyler Morgan, Steff Hughes (capt), Ryan Conbeer; Sam Costelow, Dane Blacker; Phil Price, Marc Jones, Javan Sebastian; Morgan Jones, Sam Lousi; Blade Thomson, Dan Davis, Uzair Cassiem. Replacements: Taylor Davies, Kemsley Mathias, Werner Kruger, Tevita Ratuva, Carwyn Tuipulotu, Will Homer, Angus O’Brien, Paul Asquith.
Leinster: Max O’Reilly; Cian Kelleher, Liam Turner, Ciarán Frawley, Dave Kearney; Harry Byrne, Luke McGrath (capt); Peter Dooley, James Tracy, Tadhg Furlong; Ross Molony, Ryan Baird; Josh Murphy, Dan Leavy, Jack Conan. Replacements: Seán Cronin, Ed Byrne, Tom Clarkson, Jack Dunne, Scott Fardy, Hugh O’Sullivan, David Hawkshaw, Jamie Osborne.
Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU).
Forecast: Leinster to win.