Preview: Scarlets v Leinster

Date published: November 24 2016

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac has named Johnny Mcnicholl in the starting XV for Friday's clash with Leinster at Parc y Scarlets.

Mcnicholl will make his Scarlets debut as the PRO12 makes a return after two weeks of Anglo-Welsh Cup action, and is the only change to the starting line-up that secured a 27-3 victory over Glasgow Warriors at the Parc three weeks ago.

The Scarlets are in sixth position in the championship table, nine points behind table-toppers Leinster.

Pivac believes a victory over Leinster would put Scarlets in the mix for a top four spot.

"We've had to work really hard after a poor start to the season, credit to the guys that they've got themselves into the position where they can now be fighting for hopefully that top four in the future," he said.

Looking at the opposition he went on to say; "They had a good win last out, going to Zebre isn't an easy place to go. You don't get to the top of the table by accident. They have a strong squad and it'll certainly be a good challenge. We've talked a lot about what we want to achieve and what we want out of the game. It's really focusing on maintaining the small improvements we've made over the last few weeks.

"Across the board, we're playing for each other. We want to show that to the fans and the people supporting us that it means a lot to the boys to pull the jersey on and playing well over the 80 minutes. Not just playing well but winning well aswell, and that's what we're trying to achieve."

Meanwhile, there is a return to Leinster's matchday 23 for a number of newly capped Irish internationals most notably Dan Leavy, James Tracy and Luke McGrath while there are a number of other changes from the team that accounted for Zebre in Round 8 of the PRO12.

There is one change in the back-line with Rory O’Loughlin coming back from injury to take his place in the number 13 jersey. The Leinster Academy back has featured in five PRO12 games already this season and has recovered from a shoulder injury picked up in the win over Treviso. Noel Reid will line out inside O’Loughlin.

The back three again consists of Barry Daly and Adam Byrne – who scored a hat-trick last time out – on the wings and with captain Isa Nacewa at full-back.

Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne will again play in the nine and ten jersey.

In the pack, Peter Dooley comes in at loosehead and joins Irish internationals Richardt Strauss and Michael Bent in the front row with Bent winning his 70th cap for Leinster.

Mike McCarthy is again selected at lock but is joined in the engine room by Ian Nagle. Finally there is one more change in the back row with Dominic Ryan coming in at number six, which means Dan Leavy moves to open side flanker with Jack Conan continuing at number eight.

Terenure College prop Oisín Heffernan is in line to make his debut should he be introduced while Academy back row forward Peadar Timmins is involved in a match day squad for the first time this season.

Form: Scarlets have won their last five PRO12 encounters since their 8-19 defeat in Ulster in round 3. The Welshmen have won their last five matches in all competitions at Parc y Scarlets since Munster won there on the opening weekend of the new season – their only defeat by an Irish province in the last three years. Leinster have lost just one of their last eight matches in all tournaments: 16-22 in Montpellier in the European Champions Cup on 23 October. The Leinstermen have won their last three away games in the PRO12 but have not won four in a row on the road in the Championship since 2013. Leinster’s solitary defeat to a Welsh region in the last twelve months was 13-23 at Newport Gwent Dragons at the end of January. The last five encounters between the two sides have all gone the way of the home side on the day, whilst Leinster’s most recent success at Parc y Scarlets was 42-19 on the opening round of the 2013/14 campaign. 

Scarlets: 15 Aled Thomas, 14 Johnny Mcnicholl, 13 Steff Hughes, 12 Hadleigh Parkes (c)], 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Will Boyde, 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Tom Price, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Dylan Evans, 18 Peter Edwards, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Josh Macleod, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Gareth Owen

Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa (c), 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12. Noel Reid, 11 Barry Daly, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Dominic Ryan, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Mike McCarthy, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Peter Dooley 
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Andrew Porter, 18 Oisín Heffernan, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Peadar Timmins, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Tom Daly, 23 Zane Kirchner

Date: Friday, November 25 
Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Time: 19:35 local (19:35 GMT) 
Referee: Sean Gallagher (Ireland) 
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan (Ireland), Elgan Williams (Wales)