GOOD NEWS first. On paper, it’s way too excited to see how Leinster will compete against the Scarlets at the RDS tonight [KO 5.15pm, TG4, S4C, Premier Sports and URC TV].
The first thing that catches your eye, is the first series in which Leo Cullen names Andrew Porter, Rónan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong for the first time on the same team. One can imagine that it won’t be long before we see the three who share a seat while wearing green jerseys.
For Furlong, this is the first run-out since returning from the Lions’ Tour to South Africa. In the back row, first-time Lions tourist Jack Conan comes back into play. Johnny Sexton leads the team on the outside half, while Garry Ringrose returns in the middle and James Lowe is restored on the wing. This is a team that will try to play.
The bad news? Robbie Henshaw’s name isn’t on a Leinster team sheet this season, and Cullen admits the Center’s foot injury is proving more problematic than expected. Cullen doesn’t expect Henshaw to appear next weekend either, which makes him doubtful for Ireland’s fall internationals.
« It’s just been a little slower than we thought so he’s unlikely to play in this block but hopefully he won’t be too far behind after that, « said Cullen.
» In the past he has come back reasonably seamlessly from breaks with the various injuries he has had. He tends to come back in a good place. He’s training away from home but can’t play right now. I think when he gets back he can get back on it no matter what team. «
This is news that will affect Andy Farrell, but this will be an issue for another week. Today the Irish head coach will want to see Furlong and Conan take off, with the All Blacks expected in Dublin in just four weeks.
He will also watch with interest as Leinster’s exciting new Porter-Kelleher-Furlong combo is theirs first appearance. After Cian Healy returned to Losehead cover on the bench, Cullen admitted that there are a lot of moving parts in this redesigned first row of Leinster lead with each individual based on what the teams need etc, ”said Cullen.
Tadhg Furlong will make his first appearance of the season.
Source: Ryan Byrne / INPHO
« But overall I thought it was encouraging, from our beginning to what we are now.
» I think Tadhg just showed how important he is as a player is in the Lions series. He comes to his first game of the season. Rónan was heavily represented during this (Irish) summer series and had a big year last year. If you are thinking of starting, turn the clock back 14 or 15 months to have the experience Rónan has now.
“It’s only to see him kick now. It’s not season two, but it’s behind a very big season. Can he have another great season after what he achieved last year? So how do guys get started now. They trained hard over the summer.
“With Andrew, you just wanted to see him with slightly different combinations. Obviously he wasn’t there last week so he’s back. Here, too, we’re pretty open-minded, regardless of whether he goes back to being narrow-minded or not. It will depend on it. ”
After beating Zebre last weekend, Cullen expects a tougher trial from Scarlets, which will certainly be improved after their own sad loss to Munster.
Other than that, there’s little else here than to see a home win. Scarlets have only won twice in all competitions at the RDS in 15 visits, while Leinster picked 52-25 winners at their last meeting in Llanelli in January.
« I think we haven’t really achieved everything in the three games. We gave insights into different phases so we’re just trying to be more consistent over an 80 minute performance, « added Cullen.
» We have a decent team here on paper, but on paper it’s about that to go out now and deliver together as a group. «
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LEINSTER: Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Ciarán Frawley, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (Captain), Jamison Gibson Park; Andrew Porter, Rónan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong; Ross Molony, James Ryan, Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.
Substitutes: Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Michael Ala’alatoa, Ryan Baird, Rhys Ruddock, Luke McGrath, Ross Byrne, Jimmy O’Brien .
SCARLET: Ioan Nicholas; Johnny McNicholl, Jonathan Davies (captain), Johnny Williams, Ryan Conbeer; Sam Costelow, Gareth Davies; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Will Griff John; Sam Lousi, Lloyd Ashley; Aaron Shingler, Tomas Lezana, Blade Thomson.
Substitutes: Ryan Elias, Rob Evans, Samson Lee, Morgan Jones, Shaun Evans, Kieran Hardy, Dan Jones, Tom Rogers.
Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey discuss depth into Munster, Nathan Doak’s Ireland prospects and whether rugby is the survival of the richest on The42 Rugby Weekly
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