Preview: Leinster v Scarlets

Date published: February 16 2012

The Scarlets will travel to Dublin on Friday to take on Leinster at the RDS in a crucial game for the Wales region in their play-off hopes.

The Scarlets will travel to Dublin on Friday to take on Leinster at the RDS in a crucial game for the West Wales region in their play-off aspirations.

In a welcome boost to proceedings the Scarlets welcome back five internationals that have been released by Wales and England respectively for the region's crunch match against Leinster on the weekend.

Table topping Leinster have lost only lost two games in this season's RaboDirect PRO12, 27-3 against the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium and 19-23 against Glasgow Warriors at the RDS, both early on in the season.

The Scarlets will be looking to secure crucial points in their RaboDirect PRO12 play-off aspirations as they currently sit in seventh position on 34 points.

With only five points separating the teams in third to seventh position the West Wales region are fully aware of the importance of the Celtic tie at the RDS.

Head Coach Nigel Davies said that the team's performance against Leinster will have to show improvement on the last two fixtures with the squad having worked hard throughout the week to eradicate any errors in their game.

“We're going to the RDS with every intent to win the game and having the opportunity to welcome back a few fresh faces will give us a boost, ” he said.

“We know we have a lot of work to do from here on in. We've dropped off the standard a little bit and we've been disappointed in the last two performances against Sale and Glasgow.

“We've been very hard on ourselves this week but in saying that we are competitive in every aspect in the majority of our games and we just need to ensure that we get back to where we know we can be now on Friday evening.”

The Scarlets are still in all three of their competitions this season – having reached semi-finals of the LV=Cup and a quarter-final of the Amlin Challenge Cup this season.

Scarlets captain Gareth Maule will lead his side which sees six changes to the starting XV from the side that faced Glasgow last week.

Liam Williams and Stephen Jones come in at wing and fly-half respectively after returning to training this week from Wales' Six Nations preparations with Adam Warren and Viliame Iongi providing cover on the bench alongside scrum-half Liam Davies.

Welsh international Scott Williams returns to partner captain Maule in the centre fresh from his cameo appearance at the Millennium Stadium against Scotland on the weekend.

Prop Rhodri Jones, who has been released from the Welsh squad for the weekend replaces the injured Iestyn Thomas at loosehead with Deacon Manu returning from injury at tighthead.

Phil John and Peter Edwards provide front row cover on the bench alongside former Llanelli RFC Craig Hawkins.

Kieran Murphy gets the nod at number eight with Scarlets' 206th international Ben Morgan providing cover on the bench as one of 15 who have been released by England for the weekend's fixtures.

Meanwhile, Leinster welcome back Sean Cronin, David Kearney, Fergus McFadden and Eoin Reddan to the starting line-up after their involvement in Ireland's last Six Nations game against Wales just under a fortnight ago.

The international quartet are named in a squad which also includes Dominic Ryan, named amongst the replacements after a three-and-a-half month absence through injury.

Kevin McLaughlin leads the team for the second time and is named in an all-Ireland back-row alongside Shane Jennings and the returning Rhys Ruddock who starts at number eight.

Damian Browne again partners Devin Toner at second row, while Jack McGrath makes his 15th appearance in a front row which includes Cronin and Jamie Hagan.

In the backline, Eoin O'Malley partners McFadden at centre, with scrum-half Reddan linking up with Ian Madigan – who passed the half century points mark for the province last week when he scored his seventh try in 15 games – at out half.

Heinke van der Merwe is in line to make his 50th appearance for the province should he come on as a replacement and he is named on a bench which includes Isaac Boss and Richardt Strauss.

Form: There seems to be no stopping the relentless Leinster, who top the RaboDirect PRO12 standings, and have now tallied 11 successive victories in all competitions. Only one Welsh region has won on Leinster soil since 2005: the Scarlets themselves at the RDS on 5 October 2007. Scarlets have slipped to successive defeats to Sale in the Anglo-Welsh Cup and to Glasgow in the RaboDirect PRO12. The Welshmen have won just once on the road in the PRO12 this season: 10-6 at Newport Gwent Dragons on 30 December. Leinster are unbeaten in their last six encounters with Scarlets in all tournaments, since Scarlets last win: 18-16 at Parc y Scarlets on 5 September 2009.

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa, 14 David Kearney, 13 Eoin O'Malley, 12 Fergus McFadden, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Rhys Ruddock, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Kevin McLaughlin (c), 5 Devin Toner, 4 Damian Browne, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Nathan White, 19 Leo Auva'a, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Brendan Macken.

Scarlets: 15 Dan Newton, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Gareth Maule (c), 12 Scott Williams, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Stephen Jones, 1 Rhodri Jones, 2 Emyr Phillips, 3 Deacon Manu, 4 Sione Timani, 5 Dominic Day, 6 Josh Turnbull, 7 Johnathan Edwards, 8 Kieran Murphy
Replacements: 16 Craig Hawkins, 17 Phil John, 18 Peter Edwards, 19 Damian Welch, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Liam Davies, 22 Adam Warren, 23 Viliame Iongi.

Date: Friday 17 February
Venue: RDS
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Referee Nigel Owens (WRU)