Jordan Larmour the big draw as Leinster host Scarlets
Leo Cullen’s side looking to consolidate their position as leaders of Conference B
Jordan Larmour: will be looking to show his attacking prowess against Scarlets a the RDS. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Leinster v Scarlets, RDS, 3.15pm – Live Sky Sports
Gift-wrapped from Ireland camp comes the ideal RDS ticket promotion: Jordan Larmour at fullback, with Adam Byrne and James Lowe on either wing, primed to frighten the life out of any defence in world rugby.
Larmour wearing number 15 should have Rob Kearney sleeping with one eye open but it can be interpreted as an opportunity for somebody else when Wales, and their pulled Scarlets, come to Dublin next weekend.
Fergus McFadden was not released after Joe Schmidt’s national gathering in Athlone. Neither was Joey Carbery. No sign at Leinster training of this sprightly creator who, according to Schmidt could play anywhere, even scrumhalf, at a moment’s notice.
“Game sense. There are some players who just have a game sense,” said Schmidt this week. “Joey Carbery has that game sense.”
The 22-year-old Aucklander is that good and considered too important to Irish plans for any coach to be concerned by the media din for Carbery to be granted extensive minutes at outhalf.
“Ah, it’s difficult,” Leo Cullen explained. “I don’t know the full ins-and-outs of the shape of guys or if they trained properly over the last few days in [Ireland] camp. Joey is such a key part of what they are doing – him swapping between 10 and 15 [and 12] when he is in camp gives him a chance to get some good work done. That’s the call that was made. He got off the bench against Italy for 30 minutes so that was good experience for him.”
Ross Byrne is hardly complaining. Further down the pecking order, Skerries native Ciarán Frawley covers outhalf as Cathal Marsh (toe) is injured.
Still no sign of Garry Ringrose nor Seán O’Brien though. The former is back training following ankle surgery, the latter up and running after a hip problem.
“We have lost a couple of players over the course of the season,” added Cullen. “That’s just the nature of the business, the nature of the game these days.”
Old man Isa?
“We just manage Isa, he’s getting on in years. Guys like that we have to treat a little differently. He’s not a million miles away from playing.”
Scarlets are stripped to bare bones due to the mass promotion of the Pro 12 champions’ usual starters as Wales struggle without eight crocked British and Irish Lions.
Still, Tadhg Beirne returns to the scene of his greatest and worst rugby memories. The incoming Munster lock – of Clongowes Wood stock – shows his versatility at blindside as these Scarlets clearly intend on ruining Leinster’s primary aim: rapid recycling for Luke McGrath and Byrne to ignite you know who.
James Davies has yet to break into Warren Gatland’s back row but, along with Beirne, Leinster will need to identify and nullify this natural-born openside if they are to secure clean possession.
“It’s about seeing their threat nice and early,” said Cullen, “because once they get into the space, the contact area, they are very difficult to shift off the ball.
“Tadhg is usually wearing a bright blue scrum cap so he is easier to identify than the rest. James Davies used to wear a black scrum cap but he seems to have got rid of it in recent weeks. The guys know what they look like. They have caused us problems in the past. We just need to make sure we are very strong in that area.”
A clear message for the Murphys, Josh and Jordi (also released by Schmidt), as Leinster seek some form of revenge following last season’s semi-final loss on their home patch.
“If they are allowed to play on the edge, and slow the ball up, they are very difficult to play against. And obviously we want to play when we are at home, in particular, so it is going to be a huge area of the game,” added Cullen.
A clear message to the officials, who include former Munster backs John Lacey and Frank Murphy, and clear intent from the Leinster coach. That brings us back around to Larmour as the main attraction but the small matter of remaining top of Conference B is also on the line.
Even losing four props, two locks, a cabal of flankers and centres, the Leinster squad, mid-Six Nations, look in superior shape. A bonus point victory seems likely.
LEINSTER: J Larmour; A Byrne, R O’Loughlin, N Reid, J Lowe; R Byrne, L McGrath (capt); E Byrne, S Cronin, M Bent; R Molony, S Fardy; Josh Murphy, Jordi Murphy, M Deegan. Replacements: R Strauss, P Dooley, O Heffernan, I Nagle, W Connors, N McCarthy, C Frawley, B Daly.
SCARLETS: J McNicholl; T Prydie, P Asquith, S Hughes (capt), I Nicholas; D Jones, J Evans; D Evan, R Elias, W Kruger; S Cummins, D Bulbring; T Beirne, J Davies, J Macleod. Replacements: E Phillips, P Price, S Gardiner, L Rawlins, W Boyde, D Smith, C Baldwin, T Williams.
Referee: J Lacey (IRFU).
Betting: Leinster (-18) 10/11 to win.
Verdict: Leinster .