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Preview: Leinster v Scarlets

Charlie Bennett 16 Feb 2018

Scarlets head back to the RDS Arena on Saturday for the first time since their famous semi-final win a year ago for a highly-anticipated battle with Leinster.

The Irish side will be after revenge against the defending champions, while top spot is also up for grabs in Conference B – making this a must-watch battle.

What’s at stake? This is the first time these two sides have met since Scarlets won at the RDS Arena in the semi-finals last season.

The Scarlets went onto win the title last year and look primed for another tilt this spring with 11 wins from 14 league games.

But Leinster also look strong and the two sides are neck and neck at the top of Conference B with the Irish side ahead only courtesy of points difference.

Team news (Leinster): Fresh from his Ireland debut last weekend, full-back Jordan Larmour starts for Leinster as Leo Cullen welcomes back several international stars.

Flanker Jordi Murphy wins his 100th Leinster cap in the back row while Sean Cronin returns to take his place at hooker as Cullen goes for a mixture of youth and experience.

Centre Noel Reid inches closer to his own century of appearances for the province, moving just five away on Saturday, while exciting winger James Lowe gets another chance to impress.

Team news (Scarlets): Wayne Pivac has named just two changes to his side following their loss to Benetton Rugby.

Forwards Steve Cummins and Josh Macleod replacing Lewis Rawlins and Will Boyde, while Steff Hughes captains them on his 24th birthday.

Prop Simon Gardiner wins his 50th Scarlets cap.

Talking Points: The big talking point for the hosts in the build-up to this game surrounded the fitness of centre Garry Ringrose.

The Ireland international has missed much of the season through injury but had been training this week.

“It’s a little too soon for him but he is making good progress. He looked good in training yesterday,” said Cullen.

“It’s difficult to go straight into a match (after a lay-off) but he has done it in the past, he is an experienced player and I’m sure he would be well up to the challenge.

“We have had a few issues in midfield, Garry and Robbie Henshaw were out for the start of the season and now Robbie is out again so it is a challenge for other players. That is why we have squads. It’s the nature of the game.”

The Scarlets are looking to bounce back from last weekend’s defeat to Benetton Rugby and head coach Wayne Pivac is after a response.

“We played Treviso three times already. You only have to look back at the game at home against them in the Champions Cup.

“We had fifteen players versus fourteen for large parts of that game and they dominated the scoreboard and we had to come back in the last minutes with two tries to win it.

“I wouldn’t say it’s not a game we would have expected to win automatically by just taking to the field.”

Key Battle – Johnny McNicholl v Jordan Larmour: Can the Scarlets contain Jordan Larmour? That is the key question ahead of this contest, with the superstar full-back back in action.

Larmour made his international debut against Italy last weekend and is expected to feature heavily at the RDS Arena as he looks to impress Ireland boss Joe Schmidt again – with a starting berth against Wales next weekend in mind.

But McNicholl is a solid operator and is enjoying his time in the team now regular Scarlets 15 Leigh Halfpenny is with Wales.

Key Stat: Scarlets have lost just twice in the Guinness PRO14 since Round 3, both away from home, at Toyota Cheetahs in December and at Benetton Rugby last weekend.

Did you know? Leinster have won all nine home games they have played in all tournaments this season, with their only home defeat since December 2015 being to Scarlets in last season’s PRO14 semi-final.

Leinster: Jordan Larmour, Adam Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin, Noel Reid, James Lowe, Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath, Ed Byrne, Sean Cronin, Michael Bent, Ross Molony, Scott Fardy, Josh Murphy, Jordi Murphy, Max Deegan

Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Peter Dooley, Oisín Heffernan, Ian Nagle, Will Connors, Nick McCarthy, Ciarán Frawley, Barry Daly

Scarlets: Johnny McNicholl, Tom Prydie, Paul Asquith, Steff Hughes (c), Ioan Nicholas, Dan Jones, Jonathan Evans, Dylan Evans, Ryan Elias, Werner Kruger, Steve Cummins, David Bulbring, Tadhg Beirne, James Davies, Josh Macleod

Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Phil Price, Simon Gardiner, Lewis Rawlins, Will Boyde, Declan Smith, Corey Baldwin, Tom Williams

Referee: John Lacey (IRFU)

AR1: Frank Murphy (IRFU)

AR2: Jonathan Peak (IRFU)

TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)

TV: Live on Sky Sports (3.15pm)

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Ticket prices start at just €35 for adults and €10 for children, and can be booked via


Historical Lineup Pre Opta (sfms data) - Preview - v2

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Leinster beat Scarlets to pull clear at the top

Andrew Lawton 17 Feb 2018

James Lowe scored two tries as Leinster moved clear at the top of Conference B with a 20-13 win over Scarlets at the RDS Arena.

Johnny McNicholls opened the scoring for Scarlets before two Lowe tries and a Luke McGrath score put the home side on top.

Leinster exacted some revenge on Scarlets after losing in the Guinness PRO14 semi-finals at home last season.

Looking to regain top spot in the Conference B standings, Scarlets started strongly with Tadhg Beirne looking particularly impressive, winning turnovers from the off.

After 10 minutes, Scarlets went in front when McNicholl touched down in the corner after great hands in the back line, with Dan Jones adding the conversion.

Soon after Lowe found the corner for a try of his own, showing great strength to hold off Corey Baldwin’s tackle.

Five minutes before half-time, Leinster took the lead, again through Lowe, but it was Scott Fardy, whose lineout steal and subsequent kick charge down that created the try-scoring opportunity.

Scarlets struggled from the lineout all afternoon, with Ryan Elias penalised on more than one occasion for not throwing the ball in straight by referee

Lowe turned provider shortly after the break as he held off defenders on the wing to play in Luke McGrath to score with a lovely offload.

Scarlets struggled to find a way back in to the game, as Leinster’s kicking game came to the fore.

Nick McCarthy and Ciaran Frawley both came off the bench and looked composed with the boot – McCarthy from the hand and Frawley from the tee.

Frawley, making his senior debut for Leinster, played a crucial role in taking the game away from Scarlets with a conversion and penalty.

Scarlets came close to a late try after great work from Tom Williams and Paul Asquith, breaking from one 22 to the other.

A penalty followed and Jones slotted between the posts to give Scarlets a crucial losing bonus point.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Ticket prices start at just €35 for adults and €10 for children, and can be booked via

Match Page 2017-18 - Summary WP:137

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Performance WP:138