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Preview: Leinster Rugby v Scarlets

Guinness PRO14 Rugby Editor 18 May 2017
Leinster v Scarlets

Leinster and Scarlets square off underneath the Friday night lights at the RDS Arena with a place in the Guinness PRO12 final at stake.

Leinster set new league records this season for the most tries scored by a single team – 91 – and most points – 674 – as their attacking play set the bar for others to follow.

They ultimately finished second in the standings, one point behind Irish rivals Munster, while Scarlets came third, having won 17 of their 22 games this term.

Scarlets, whose counter-attacking play from stolen ball has been brilliant all term, have reached the semi-finals just once before, when they lost 28-17 to Ulster in Belfast back in 2013.

What’s at stake?

With the Guinness PRO12 final in Dublin a little over a week away, earning a spot at the Aviva Stadium showpiece should be motivation enough for both sides,

History appears to all be in Leinster’s favour as no away side has ever won a PRO12 semi-final, while Leo Cullen’s men are unbeaten in league games at the RDS Arena since February 2015.

Leinster also boast a formidable record of having never lost any of the six semi-finals that they have played at their Dublin home.

But Scarlets are a team in form – with their only defeat since round 11 of the Guinness PRO12 coming against the Leinstermen, 45-9 at the RDS Arena, in March.

The Welsh side’s only victory at the RDS came on their very first visit, back in October 2007.

Leinster team news:

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has made wholesale changes to the matchday 23 that will face the Scarlets, after resting a number of players for their final clash of the regular season.

Joey Carbery is selected at full-back with Adam Byrne starting on the right wing and captain Isa Nacewa on the left for his 170th cap.

Robbie Henshaw has recovered from injury to take his place in the centres with Garry Ringrose, while Luke McGrath and Johnny Sexton are the half-back combination.

Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong are selected at loosehead and tighthead prop respectively, with James Tracy at hooker and Ross Molony and Hayden Triggs – in his final game at the RDS Arena before he retires – in the second row.

In the back row, Rhys Ruddock and Josh van der Flier are selected on the flanks with Jack Conan at No.8.

Scarlets team news: 

Heading into the semi-final on the back of a record victory over regional rivals Ospreys, Scarlets welcome the return of turnover maestro James Davies, who has recovered from a shoulder injury.

Internationals Jake Ball and Ken Owens are not available with shoulder and ankle injuries respectively but Scotland international John Barclay also returns from injury and will lead the Scarlets in Owens’ absence.

Hooker Ryan Elias, who was last week named in Wales’ squad for the summer tour, joins international props Rob Evans and Samson Lee in the front row as Lewis Rawlins links up with Tadhg Beirne in the engine room.

Aaron Shingler joins Davies and Barclay in the back row, while the backline remains unchanged from the side that faced the Ospreys.

Talking points:

With history against his side, Wayne Pivac is under no illusions about the magnitude of the task facing his side but the Scarlets coach is convinced his team are more than up for the task.

“It’s a big task but it’s one we’re relishing having. We haven’t been in this position since this group of coaches, and players, have been together. It’s a great challenge and they are a really good side.

“They’re a very strong side defensively, they make it very difficult for attacks. They’re scoring a lot of tries themselves at the moment and it makes them a pretty complete package.

“It will be a big, big challenge for us but it’s also a great opportunity. That’s what the hard work all season has been done for.

“We’re not far off having our top side available, we’re going in there with some confidence, not over confident, but confidence that we deserve to be there and we’re going to enjoy the occasion.”

Leinster’s Hayden Triggs is retiring at the end of the campaign and there is a quiet desperation about his desire to sign off with a trophy.

“I’ve said it time and again this club is awesome, it’s the best I’ve been involved with. They say the grass isn’t always greener, and I firmly believe it with this club.

“It’s not a case of wanting to win, a bit of silverware, but I need to. I’d love to leave my mark, my name, on this club with something positive.

“That would mean the world to me. I’m not getting ahead of myself; we need to deal with a good team coming to the RDS. I don’t want to sound like we’re going to be there, but me personally, I’d love nothing more.”

Lions watch:

Six of the two clubs’ eight players selected for this summer’s British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand will start at the RDS Arena.

The only exceptions are Scarlets hooker Ken Owens, who is battling an ankle injury, and Leinster flanker Sean O’Brien who starts from the bench.

The Leinster front row is two-thirds Lions as props Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong get the start, while Johnny Sexton will pull the strings from No.10 and Henshaw is outside him at inside centre.

The Scarlets backline boasts two Lions as Jonathan Davies lines up at outside centre, while speedster Liam Williams is on the wing.

Key stat:

No team has ever won an away Guinness PRO12 semi-final, as the home side has triumphed in each of the previous 14.

Did you know?

Leinster’s only defeat to a Welsh region this season came when they visited Parc y Scarlets in November.

Leinster top points scorer: Isa Nacewa 81 Top try scorer: Joey Carbery, Rory O’Loughlin 8

Scarlets top points scorer: Rhys Patchell 124 Top try scorers: Steff Evans 11

Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 28, Leinster won 17, Scarlets won 10 with 1 game drawn.

At RDS Arena, 7.45pm Live on Sky Sports/TG4/BBC Wales
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR, 68th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Mike Adamson (SRU), Simone Boaretto (FIR)
Citing Commissioner: Douglas Hunter (SRU)
TMO: Alan Falzone (FIR)

The Guinness PRO12 Final takes place on May 27 at Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Fans can guarantee their place by booking their tickets via www.ticketmaster.ie

Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final

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

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Scarlets produce fine defensive display to see off Leinster and book final spot

Charlie Bennett 19 May 2017

Scarlets made the Guinness PRO12 final for the first time after a brave defensive display in the second half was enough to see off Leinster.

The Welsh side became the first away team to win a PRO12 semi-final and they had to do it for the majority of the game with 14 men after Steff Evans was sent off at the end of the first half.

Scarlets ran in three tries in the first half to take a commanding lead but were forced to defend in the second period, although Leinster failed to take advantage of the extra man.

Liam Williams scored two late penalties to take the game away from Leinster and book their place at the Aviva Stadium next week where they will play the winner of the second semi-final between Munster and Ospreys

Scarlets took the lead after just nine minutes when Evans finished off a good move started by Jonathan Davies who wriggled through a tackle on a counter-attack, got it out to John Barclay who released the winger to finish it off with an electric burst of pace, Rhys Patchell adding the conversion.

The hosts got themselves on the board when Isa Nacewa slotted a penalty after Scarlets second row Lewis Rawlins was penalised for not releasing his man in the tackle.

Leinster looked to add to that score straight away as they went on the attack with Joey Carbery working his way through the Scarlets defence but the Welshmen managed to regain possession.

Leinster continued to pile on the pressure and scrum-half Luke McGrath was only denied a try after excellent defensive work from Evans who made a late tackle and Williams got over the ball to snatch it back for the visitors.

But the pressure finally told as the Irish outfit went over for their first try.

A well-worked team move was finished off by Garry Ringrose. The Leinster centre ran at pace and took an offload from Jack Conan before crossing the line and Johnny Sexton added the extras to make it 10-7.

But no sooner had Leinster scored their try than Scarlets replied with one of their own.

This time it was Aaron Shingler who burst through a huge gap and combined with scrum-half Gareth Davies to go over the line straight from the restart, before Patchell duly added the conversion.

And minutes later they ran in another try, this time after an offloading masterclass from Scott Williams, James Davis and Evans sent Davies in under the posts for one of the best tries of the season. And again Patchell added the extras to put Scarlets 21-10 ahead.

But with half-time approaching Scarlets were reduced to 14 men as Evans was sent off for a tip-tackle on Ringrose.

Leinster went for the corner with the resulting penalty but the Scarlets were able to clear andhold on for the interval.

The visitors were forced to put in a real defensive shift in the second half as they looked to protect their 11-point advantage.

There was a huge cheer around the RDS Arena as Leinster’s Hayden Triggs left the field for the final time before he retires at the end of the season and he was replaced by Devin Toner.

The pressure of the extra man finally told when Leinster stole the ball at the line-out and then used their power to push for the line. Eventually Conan dotted down but Nacewa missed the chance to reduce the lead even further as he failed with the conversion.

And Scarlets were able to extend their lead on a rare venture into the Leinster half when Liam Williams slotted a penalty to extend their lead.

And they won another penalty with just two minutes remaining, which Williams converted, to complete the job and make it back to Dublin for next week’s final.

The Guinness PRO12 Final takes place on May 27 at Aviva Stadium, Dublin. 

Fans can guarantee their place by booking their tickets via www.ticketmaster.ie

Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final

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