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Preview: Scarlets v Leinster

05th September 2013 12:20

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Rhys Priestland 2012

Starts: Rhys Priestland

The Scarlets open their RaboDirect PRO12 season at home this Friday with a testing fixture against the reigning champions Leinster.

It will be a welcome return to the line-up for the region's 22-cap Wales fly-half Rhys Priestland who has appeared 111 times for his region.

Priestland impressed last weekend in his second-half performance off the bench away at Gloucester; following more than 18 months out.

The Scarlets new signing Steve Shingler moves from the ten jersey to centre in partnership alongside Wales international Scott Williams.

Otherwise the starting XV looks the same as last weekend with captain Rob McCusker leading a strong Scarlets team with plenty of depth on the bench and is only without British and Irish Lions centre Jon Davies (rested) and new signing, Scotland openside flanker John Barclay.

Meanwhile, Leinster are boosted by the timely return of several senior players for the trip to Llanelli. Jimmy Gopperth will make his senior debut at fly-half alongside Eoin Reddan - fresh from his successful return last week against Saints to make his 80th appearance.

Gordon D'Arcy returns to the starting line-up after missing the PRO12 and Amlin Challenge Cup victories in May and he will make his 222nd appearance.

Luke Fitzgerald - who will make his first appearance since March - forms an exciting back-three with Dave Kearney and the backline's second debutant, Darragh Fanning.

Up front, Shane Jennings leads the team and is one of four Ireland internationals in the pack, with two Leinster Academy prop graduates Jack McGrath and Martin Moore named in the front-row, while Mike Ross and new signing Mike McCarthy named on the bench.

Form: Scarlets have been victorious in their round one encounter in the RaboDirect PRO12 tournament four times in the past five seasons. The Welshmen's six game winning run in all competitions at Parc y Scarlets ended with their 17-41 defeat to Benetton Treviso in round 22 last season. Scarlets only home reversal to an Irish province in the PRO12 since September 2011 was to Ulster last December. Leinster begin the defence of the third PRO12 crown that they won in Dublin in May. Incredibly the Leinstermen have only ever won their opening round game once before since the tournament went home and away in 2003/04: in 2007 when they beat Edinburgh at the RDS. Leinster have won 12 of their last 13 PRO12 fixtures, and have been successful on both their previous visits to Wales in 2013. Scarlets solo victory over Leinster in any competition since September 2009 was in this equivalent round one match last season.

The teams:

Scarlets: 15 Gareth Owen, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Steve Shingler, 11 Kristian Phillips, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Rob McCusker (capt), 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Jo Snyman, 4 George Earle, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Craig Price, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Adam Warren, 23 Jordan Williams.

Leinster: 15 Dave Kearney, 14 Darragh Fanning, 13 Fergus McFadden, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Shane Jennings (capt), 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Tom Denton, 3 Martin Moore, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Jack O'Connell, 18 Mike Ross, 19 Mike McCarthy, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Brendan Macken.

Date: Friday, September 6
Kick-off: 19:05 BST
Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)

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PosTeamPPts
1Leinster2074
2Ulster2065
3Glasgow Warriors1964
4Munster1963
5Ospreys1956