Leinster v Scarlets - Heineken Cup match preview

Last Updated: 12/01/13 7:41pm

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Leinster will be out to keep their faint hopes of qualifying for the Heineken Cup quarter-finals alive when they tackle Scarlets at the RDS Arena on Saturday.

The holders face an early exit following back-to-back defeats to Clermont Auvergne, leaving them requiring at least two wins and for other results to go their way in order to progress.

Leo Cullen leads a star-studded Leinster side. Cullen partners Devin Toner at second row with Sean O'Brien set to make his 30th European appearance in a back-row which also features Shane Jennings and number eight Jamie Heaslip.

Kevin McLaughlin misses the game with a shoulder knock but is expected to be available for the Round Six clash away to Exeter Chiefs on January 19.

The front row is unchanged from the side which started last weekend's bonus point victory over Edinburgh in the PRO12, so Cian Healy will make his 108th appearance for his home province alongside Sean Cronin and Mike Ross.

In the back-line, Isaac Boss partners Jonathan Sexton at half-back with Gordon D'Arcy continuing at centre alongside the returning Fergus McFadden who was rested last weekend, while Isa Nacewa is recalled to an experienced back-line which also features Luke Fitzgerald - who makes his 105th Leinster appearance - and last year's European Player of the Year Rob Kearney.

Brian O'Driscoll, who made his comeback last weekend, is being managed and is named on the replacements bench alongside fellow Ireland internationals Michael Bent, Eoin Reddan and Rhys Ruddock.

Scarlets coach Simon Easterby has made six changes to his side, including a positional switch, that were beaten by Ulster at Ravenhill.

Amongst the backs, Liam Williams replaces Dan Newton at full-back and Andy Fenby comes in on the wing for George North who is still recovering from a back and neck injury.

The only other change in the back-line sees Scott Williams replacing Jonathan Davies at inside centre.

Up front, captain Rob McCusker moves from number eight to blindside flank while George Earle and Ken Owens take over from Sione Timani, and Emyr Phillips at lock and hooker respectively.

McCusker's place at the base of the scrum is taken by Kieran Murphy, who comes into the run-on side for Johnathan Edwards.

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Isa Nacewa, 13 Fergus McFadden, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Sean O'Brien, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Leo Cullen, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Heinke Van der Merwe, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Tom Denton, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Brian O'Driscoll.

Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Andy Fenby, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Kristian Phillips, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Kieran Murphy, 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Rob McCusker (capt) 5 Richard Kelly, 4 George Earle, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Johan Synman, 20 Sione Timani, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Jonathan Davies, 23 Adam Warren.

What they said...

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt

"I might be naive, but I do believe in miracles," he told the Irish Independent. "That's one of the reasons people love sport.

"They love it because they want to see the miracle. And they don't come up too often, so you treasure them when they happen.

"We've had a couple of them in the last couple of years that will certainly be indelibly etched in my memory and I'd love to get another very good memory in the next two weeks."

Scarlets captain Rob McCusker

"You learn a lot about people's characters in a period like this and none more so than on Saturday.

"Leinster have got some great players. Whether it's international, Heineken or Rabo they are quality players who we will have to get to grips with early.

"Across the board they have got players who can do damage to you."

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