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Leinster host Scarlets as first plays fourth in the Guinness PRO12

Guinness PRO12 Rugby Editor 3 Mar 2017
Preview: Leinster Rugby v Scarlets

Leinster moved top of the table for the first time since November last weekend but this week take on fellow high-flyers Scarlets at the RDS.

What’s at stake?

Something has to give this weekend, Leinster have won their last 21 home games in the Guinness PRO12 since drawing 34-all with Glasgow Warriors at the RDS Arena back in March 2015.

Scarlets meanwhile have won their last five Guinness PRO12 matches, whilst their only defeat in the last 13 rounds was 9-19 at Ospreys on 27 December.

The last six encounters between the two sides have all gone in favour of the home team.
Scarlets only previous victory over Leinster in Dublin was 52-23 at the RDS Arena in October 2007.

Leinster team news:

There are four changes to the starting XV that won in Newport last Friday and further changes on the bench.

The first change is in the half backs with Luke McGrath partnering Ross Byrne.

In the pack Irish international Richardt Strauss captains the team for the first time in the RDS as he comes in at hooker.

Ross Molony is again selected in the second row but Hayden Triggs comes in for the start this week having scored off the bench last week.

In the back row Dan Leavy comes in at openside having been 24th man last weekend with Ireland.

Bryan Byrne comes onto the bench where he will be joined by his twin brother Ed who made his first appearance in 28 months last weekend away to the Dragons.

Scarlets team news:

Head Coach Wayne Pivac has named an unchanged starting XV to the one that secured a first victory in 14 years at Munster’s Thomond Park last Friday.

Scrum-half Declan Smith is the only change to the 23 that headed to Limerick last weekend; Smith has been released from Wales U20s camp with fellow scrum half Aled Davies back in Wales camp.

Talking points:

Speaking ahead of the first versus fourth clash head coach Wayne Pivac said: “For us it’s really important to maximise the opportunities in these two away Irish games. There are points on offer and we want to get as many as we can. That was a really big result for us against Munster and we’ve got another big challenge this weekend against Leinster.

“The result this weekend is huge for us. We don’t really want to be leaving it down to that last weekend because there’s enough riding on that game as it is without top four riding on it as well!

“There’s a long way still go but it’ll be feet on the ground this week and prepare as normal.

“These boys have got a proud record. They’re three from three at the moment; they’re desperate to go four from four in this phase. That’s what we’re trying to achieve. If we can do that it sets us up nicely for the run home. We really want to go there (RDS) and try and get the points.”

Key battle: DTH van der Merwe v Adam Bryne

Two wingers at opposite ends of the experience scale, DTH van der Merwe has been scoring tries for fun for many a year in the Guinness PRO12 while Adam Byrne has burst on to the scene this season.

Both will take some stopping and their battle could go a long way to deciding the outcome of this fixture.

Key stat: Leinster Rugby’s run of four successive maximum point victories in the Guinness PRO12 has taken them to the top of the table for the first time since November.

Did you know? Scarlets have won their last four encounters with Irish provinces, their best such run for over a decade.

Leinster top try scorer – Joey Carbery, Adam Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin – 6

Top points scorer – Isa Nacewa – 78

Scarlets top try scorer – Steffan Evans – 6

Top points scorer – Rhys Patchell – 91

Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 27, Leinster won 16, Scarlets won 10 with 1 game drawn.

At RDS Arena, 7.35pm Live on TG4 and S4C
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 147th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell (WRU), Jonathan Peak (IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Tim Lowry (IRFU)
TMO: Tim Hayes (WRU)

Leinster back on top with success over Scarlets

Guinness PRO12 Rugby Editor 4 Mar 2017

Leinster returned to the top of the Guinness PRO12 table thanks to a seven-try victory over Scarlets for their 22nd straight home win.

The home side enjoyed much of the possession in the first half but only held a narrow three-point lead as two Luke McGrath tries were added to by three Daniel Jones penalties for the visitors.

But after the restart Leinster turned on the style and Rhys Ruddock and Joey Carbery scores quickly brought up the bonus point.

Carbery added a second before Ed Byrne – on his return to the RDS after 28 months out injured – and a late Jamison Gibson-Park meant Scarlets were well beaten for their first Guinness PRO12 loss in six games.

Scarlets started the game stronger and they had the lead after just three minutes as Jones slotted a penalty through the posts.

But Leinster came straight back at the Welsh side and after Peter Dooley almost crossed the whitewash the visitors were pinged for not releasing right on their tryline and McGrath powered over from the back of a scrum for the game’s first try.

Ross Byrne added the extras but the home side’s lead was cut to just one midway through the half as Jones kicked his second penalty.

But Jones’ next kick was not as successful as McGrath charged him down and collected the ball to go over for his second try of the evening, although Byrne couldn’t convert.

The Scarlets threatened to score a try of their own just before the half-hour mark but after a knock on they had to make do with another Jones three-pointer.

That meant Leinster led 12-9 at half-time as despite some late pressure the Scarlets defence held firm and were grateful for Nigel Owens’ whistle.

Leinster picked up where they left off following the restart but they once again faced stubborn Scarlets defending. But they didn’t have to wait long for a third try as Fergus McFadden claimed a Byrne cross kick and after the ball was moved left to right Ruddock crashed over.

Byrne converted and he was at it again as Leinster wrapped up the bonus point when Carbery went over on 52 minutes.

That was Carbery’s fifth try in as many games and he didn’t have to wait long for a sixth as just moments later an Adam Byrne offload sent the full-back over again, although Ross Byrne failed to add the extras.

Leinster were in full flow now and just before the hour a Ross Byrne cross kick was collected by Adam Byrne who then sent Ed Byrne over for a first-ever Guinness PRO12 try.

And with 80 minutes on the clock Gibson-Park went over for a seventh try as Scarlets were kept scoreless in the second half.

Guinness PRO12 Final 2017, 27th May, Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Ticket Information: Fans can still avail of an exclusive number of €35 tickets. Book via www.ticketmaster.ie. Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final