Leinster’s strongest looking selection of the campaign to host Scarlets

They’ve 13 Irish internationals in starting XV, and another six test players on the bench

Jack Conan will start in the Leinster backrow against the Scarlets. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

Jack Conan will start in the Leinster backrow against the Scarlets. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

 

United Rugby Championship: Leinster v Scarlets

Kick-off: 5.15pm, Saturday. Venue: RDS. On TV: Live on TG4 and Premier Sport.

While Robbie Henshaw’s foot injury has cast a doubt over his availability for Ireland in their November series, as expected Tadhg Furlong and Jack Conan will make their seasonal re-appearances in Leinster’s strongest looking selection of the campaign to date.

Rónan Kelleher makes his first start of the campaign, with only Ciarán Frawley and Jordan Larmour retained from last week’s line-up. In all, Leinster have 13 Irish internationals in their starting XV, and another six test players on the bench.

Dwayne Peel has made seven changes in personnel, some of them enforced, in response to the Scarlets’ 43-13 home defeat by Munster, with new Argentinian backrower Tomas Lezana named to make his debut and Wyn Jones promoted to the starting line-up alongside fellow Lions Ken Owens and Gareth Davies.

Leo Cullen is energised by the prospect of the 75 per cent capacity, circa 13,875, and what his selection might deliver, although he is understandably wary of traditionally tricky opponents who will be hurt by last week’s limp showing, not least as their former skills coach Hugh Hogan is now part of the Scarlets’ backroom team.

“I don’t think we’ve really hit our stride yet in the three games. We’ve shown glimpses at different stages so it’s just trying to be more consistent over an 80 minute performance,” Cullen admitted.

“There was lots of good parts even last week. We started the game well, second half good, but we definitely tailed off in different stages of the game so one to 23, guys coming off the bench adding real impact for the team, it’s just important that those guys come on and fit in, and are really adding to the group. We have a decent team here on paper, but that’s on paper, it’s about going out now and delivering together as a group.

“Definitely Scarlets will be hurting off the back of last week so it’s just important we bring our own motivations and with guys being able to run around in front of friends and family again, it’s just trying to get that connection with home advantage, what that intangible piece is.

“All the signs are that it will be (a big crowd) and then you try to get that chemistry effect if you like, where guys are able to perform and deliver well for the team.”

Leinster hold a 21-12 head-to-head record in this competition, with two matches drawn, but since the Scarlets’ jarring semi-final win here in May 2017, Cullen’s team have lost only once in seven subsequent meetings.

What’s more the Scarlets have won just twice in 15 previous visits to the RDS.

LEINSTER: Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Ciarán Frawley, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (capt), Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Rónan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong; Ross Molony, James Ryan; Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Michael Ala’alatoa, Ryan Baird, Rhys Ruddock, Luke McGrath, Ross Byrne, Jimmy O’Brien.

Scarlets: Ioan Nicholas; Johnny McNicholl, Jonathan Davies (capt), Johnny Williams, Ryan Conbeer; Sam Costelow, Gareth Davies; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, WillGriff John; Sam Lousi, Lloyd Ashley; Aaron Shingler, Tomas Lezana, Blade Thomson.

Replacements : Ryan Elias, Rob Evans, Samson Lee, Morgan Jones, Shaun Evans, Kieran Hardy, Dan Jones, Tom Rogers.

Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa).

Betting: 1/18 Leinster, 45/1 Draw, 9/1 Scarlets. Handicap odds (Scarlets +22pts) 10/11 Leinster, 22/1 Draw, 10/11 Scarlets.

Forecast: Leinster to win.

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