Edinburgh boosted by returning internationals

Date published: February 14 2020

There are four PRO14 games scheduled for Saturday with Scarlets v Edinburgh facing off in the marquee match, while Dragons’ clash with Benetton has been postponed.

Leinster v Cheetahs

After a mini-break, Leinster return to action for the first time in four weekends and head coach Leo Cullen has called upon a mixture of youth and experience as he welcomes Conference A rivals the Cheetahs to the RDS.

A number of players released from the Ireland camp for this weekend are chosen by Cullen in his starting XV, while four academy players also make the matchday 23.

Rob Kearney starts at full-back with Fergus McFadden on the right wing and Dave Kearney – one of those released by Ireland head coach Andy Farrell – on the left.

In the centre, Joe Tomane wears the number 12 jersey with Jimmy O’Brien outside him, while Luke McGrath is partnered by Ciarán Frawley in the half-backs.

In the front-row, Offaly man Peter Dooley is joined by Rónan Kelleher, who was of course recently capped by Ireland for the first time against Scotland, while Michael Bent makes a welcome return from injury at tighthead prop.

Ross Molony is joined by captain Scott Fardy in the second-row.

Finally in the back-row, fresh from his Ireland debut last weekend, Max Deegan wears the number eight jersey with Rhys Ruddock at blindside and Will Connors selected at openside.

Meanwhile, Aranos Coetzee will be the first South African player to earn his 50th PRO14 cap for a South African side when the Cheetahs run out in Dublin.

Head coach Hawies Fourie has only made one change to the team with Gerhard Olivier returning from injury, replacing Daniel Maartens on the bench.

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Jimmy O’Brien, 12 Joe Tomane, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Ciarán Frawley, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Max Deegan, 7 Will Connors, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Scott Fardy (c), 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Rónan Kelleher, 1 Peter Dooley
Replacements: 16 Seán Cronin, 17 Michael Milne, 18 Roman Salanoa, 19 Ryan Baird, 20 Scott Penny, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Cian Kelleher

Cheetahs: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Clayton Blommetjies, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Ruan Pienaar (c), 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Chris Massyn, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Charles Marais
Replacements: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Aidon Davis, 20 Gerhard Olivier, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Louis Fouche, 23 Chris Smit

Venue: RDS Arena
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Stuart Gaffkin (Ireland), Gwyn Morris (Wales)
TMO: Ian Davies (Wales)

Scarlets v Edinburgh

Kieron Fonotia returns from injury as Scarlets resume their PRO14 challenge with a top-of-the-table clash against Edinburgh at Parc y Scarlets.

The Samoan international centre has recovered from a calf issue to take his place in a side showing six changes from Scarlets’ last match – the European Challenge Cup victory over London Irish in January.

With Johnny McNicholl and Leigh Halfpenny on Six Nations duty, Angus O’Brien wears the number 15 shirt for the first time this season, slotting into a back three with Corey Baldwin and Steff Evans.

Fonotia partners skipper Steff Hughes in midfield, while half-backs Dan Jones and Kieran Hardy continue their partnership. Jones, who recently celebrated a century of appearances, is closing in on 500 points in a Scarlets jersey.

Up front, Phil Price starts at loosehead prop, hooker Taylor Davies makes his first appearance since the home game against Irish in November, while Samson Lee continues at tighthead.

There is a new second-row pairing of Lewis Rawlins and Sam Lousi, while the back-row of Wales international Aaron Shingler, Josh Macleod and Uzair Cassiem is the same as the one that took on Irish at the Madejski Stadium.

On the bench, Wales U20s hooker Dom Booth is poised to make his competitive debut. The 19-year-old Tenby product is another who has come through the region’s academy pathway. Booth has featured in Wales’ U20s Six Nations matches against Italy and Ireland.

There is also a welcome return for flanker Dan Davis, who has been sidelined since early November with a serious toe injury.

After 10 rounds of PRO14 action, Edinburgh sit top of Conference B, three points ahead of Scarlets.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill has named 10 internationals in his starting XV for this fixture.

WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Nick Haining, Luke Crosbie, Henry Pyrgos and Matt Scott are all released from Scotland’s Six Nations camp for the top of the Conference B encounter in Llanelli.

Fijian stars Viliame Mata and Eroni Sau are named at number eight and on the right wing respectively, while Scotland caps Mark Bennett, Damien Hoyland and Lewis Carmichael all retain their place in the starting line-up as the capital club return to action for the first time in four weeks.

Hoyland keeps his spot at full-back as wingers Duhan van der Merwe – named man of the match in October’s reverse fixture against Scarlets at Murrayfield – and Sau complete the back three.

Scotland duo Scott and Bennett once again link-up in midfield, as scrum-half Pyrgos – who skippers the side – and fly-half Jaco van der Walt are selected at half-back.

Hooker David Cherry gets the nod up front and packs down alongside prop duo Pierre Schoeman and Nel.

An all-Scotland lock combination sees Gilchrist return from international duty to partner Carmichael in the second-row.

Mata anchors the back-row as flankers Crosbie and Haining form the remainder of the pack.

The teams:

Scarlets: 15 Angus O’Brien, 14 Corey Baldwin, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Steff Hughes (c), 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Josh Macleod, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Lewis Rawlins, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Taylor Davies, 1 Phil Price
Replacements: 16 Dom Booth. 17 Rob Evans, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Tevita Ratuva, 20 Dan Davis, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Paul Asquith, 23 Ryan Conbeer

Edinburgh: 15 Damien Hoyland, 14 Eroni Sau, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Henry Pyrgos (c), 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Luke Crosbie, 6 Nick Haining, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Lewis Carmichael, 3 WP Nel, 2 David Cherry, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Replacements: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 John Barclay, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 George Taylor

Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

Ospreys v Ulster

The PRO14 rolls on this weekend following a six-week hiatus, and there’s an exciting Ospreys team named to take on Ulster in Round 11 at the Liberty Stadium this Saturday.

The back three trio of Cai Evans, Hanno Dirksen and Luke Morgan are reunited once more since their last outing in the Champions Cup against Munster back in January. Evans recently renewed his contract with the Ospreys, while Dirksen will be celebrating his 150th appearance in an Ospreys jersey.

Welsh international centre Owen Watkin has recovered from his knee injury to give both Ospreys and Wales a timely boost in the midfield. The young centre will celebrate his 50th cap for the region and will be partnered by Kieran Williams, who has been plagued with injuries this season.

Aled Davies starts at scrum-half and will be looking to provide clean service for his fly-half, Luke Price – the pivot having started all but two games in the PRO14 so far this season.

In the pack, props Nicky Smith and Simon Gardiner pack down at loosehead and tighthead respectively, with Scott Otten given the nod at hooker.

Adam Beard, released by Wales for this weekend, returns seamlessly back into the fold and partners up with fellow international lock Bradley Davies to form a heavyweight second-row.

Veteran flanker Dan Lydiate will lead the side from the blindside, while Olly Cracknell packs down on the openside. Gareth Evans makes a welcome return to the side and will pack down at number eight.

Meanwhile, Louis Ludik has returned from injury and has been selected to start for Ulster this weekend.

Ludik will start on the left wing and is joined in the back three by full-back Matt Faddes and Robert Baloucoune, who rejoins the Ulster squad following his involvement in the development group which trained alongside the Irish squad in the build-up to the Six Nations.

Stuart McCloskey has been released from the Ireland squad and is paired with Luke Marshall in midfield. Billy Burns has also been released from international duties and will start at fly-half alongside David Shanahan, who comes in to start at scrum-half.

In the front-row, Eric O’Sullivan will start at loosehead prop, Adam McBurney is selected at hooker and Marty Moore returns to the tighthead position.

Alan O’Connor will lead the side from the second-row and is partnered with Kieran Treadwell. Matthew Rea and Sean Reidy – who both recently signed two-year contract extensions with the province – start in the back-row alongside number eight Marcell Coetzee.

Jack McGrath and Tom O’Toole, who are also part of Ireland’s Six Nations squad, are named among the forward reinforcements with John Andrew, David O’Connor and Jordi Murphy. Providing backline cover are Jonny Stewart, Bill Johnston and Craig Gilroy.

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Cai Evans, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Kieran Williams, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Luke Price, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Olly Cracknell, 6 Dan Lydiate (c), 5 Bradley Davies, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Simon Gardiner, 2 Scott Otten, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Gheorghe Gajion, 19 Lloyd Ashley, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 23 James Hook

Ulster: 15 Matt Faddes, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Billy Burns, 9 David Shanahan, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Matthew Rea, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O’Connor (c), 3 Marty Moore, 2 Adam McBurney, 1 Eric O’Sullivan
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 David O’Connor, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Jonny Stewart, 22 Bill Johnston, 23 Craig Gilroy

Venue: Liberty Stadium
Kick-off: 17:15 GMT
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Manuel Bottino (Italy)
TMO: Alan Falzone (Italy)

Connacht v Cardiff Blues

Ireland internationals Ultan Dillane and Dave Heffernan have returned to the Connacht starting team to face Cardiff Blues at the Sportsground.

The return of the duo is a timely boost to Andy Friend’s side as they prepare for a crucial inter-conference clash that could have a huge bearing on qualification for the knockout stages of the PRO14.

Ballina native Heffernan comes into a front-row alongside props Paddy McAllister and Finlay Bealham. Dillane’s inclusion sees him line up alongside the impressive Gavin Thornbury in the second-row with Quinn Roux still unavailable through injury.

In the back-row, captain Jarrad Butler starts at number eight with Paul Boyle and Colby Fainga’a at blindside and openside respectively.

Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty continue as the halfback pairing with Caolin Blade and Conor Fitzgerald available off the bench.

With Bundee Aki still unavailable due to international duty, Peter Robb and Kyle Godwin are selected as the midfield partnership. In the back three Tiernan O’Halloran is selected at full back with Matt Healy and John Porch on the wings.

Meanwhile, Josh Turnbull will make his 100th PRO14 appearance in Cardiff Blues colours in John Mulvihill’s side.

Following a three week interval, Wales’ capital region are back in action at The Sportsground, as they look to make up ground on their Conference B rivals.

The Blues currently sit in fifth place in the Conference, but with only 11 points separating sixth place and top spot, it’s all to play for as we head into the business end of the campaign.

They head into Saturday’s clash on the back of four victories from five PRO14 matches.

Hallam Amos makes a return from an ankle injury, which ruled him of the Challenge Cup double-header against Leicester Tigers and Calvisano, and joins Dan Fish and Jason Harries in the back three.

Garyn Smith retains his centre spot alongside Rey Lee-Lo, while the experienced duo of Jason Tovey and skipper Lloyd Williams are named at scrum-half.

Utility forward Turnbull, who also made 86 PRO14 appearances for Scarlets, is handed the number six jersey and links up with Olly Robinson and Will Boyde in the back-row.

A front-row trio of Rhys Gill, Liam Belcher and Dmitri Arhip is named with Filo Paulo and James Ratti completing the pack.

On the bench, Ryan Edwards is in-line to make his first appearance for the region since joining on a short-term loan deal earlier this month. The Bristol Bears wing made a single Cardiff Blues appearance in similar circumstances in 2017/18.

Seb Davies is also named as a replacement, after being released from the Wales Six Nations squad for the encounter, with hooker Kristian Dacey making a long-awaited return from injury.

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 John Porch, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Peter Robb, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Jarrad Butler (c), 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Paul Boyle, 5 Gavin Thornbury, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Paddy McAllister
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Joe Maksymiw, 20 Eoin McKeon, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Conor Fitzgerald, 23 Tom Daly

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Jason Harries, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Garyn Smith, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Lloyd Williams (c), 8 Will Boyde, 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 James Ratti, 4 Filo Paulo, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Rhys Gill
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Ben Thomas, 23 Ryan Edwards

Venue: The Sportsground
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Dan Carson (Ireland)
TMO: Charles Samson (Scotland)