We have live score commentary as Matt O’Connor steps in the very big boot of Joe Schmidt when he leads Leinster in to their first game of the new Rugby season, a tricky trip to Wales to face the Scarlets. (Kick off 7.05pm Friday, 6th September).
The former Leicester coach took the reins during the summer and so far has seen his side lose both their pre-season games, doing down 21-19 to Ulster and losing 21-13 at home to Northampton.
Connor will be able to call upon a number of experienced played for the trip to Wales with Eoin Reddan, Fergus McFadden, Gordon D’Arcy and Shane Jennings all named in the starting line-up.
The province lost Jonathan Sexton during the off-season with the Irish star opting to move to France and his replacement, New Zealander Jimmy Gopperth gets an early chance to make an impression when he makes his debut at half back alongside Reddan.
Reddan, who will win his 80th cap, made his comeback in the friendly with Northampton last weekend and the Irish international was delighted to be back playing telling the Leinster official website “It’s great to be back and to get a run out last Friday (against Northampton). My leg feels good. Everyone’s switched on this week in training. The intensity is going to go up a lot.”
The experienced trio of Luke Fitzgerald, D’Arcy and McFadden will line up on the wing and in the centres with St. Mary’s College captain Darragh Fanning, the second debutant, and Dave Kearney completing the backline.
The team will be captained by Jennings with youngsters Jack McGrath and Martin Moore starting in the front row. Another summer signing Mike McCarthy will have to wait for his competitive debut after being named on the bench.
The Scarlets impressed last season finishing fourth during the regular season before losing to Ulster 28-17 in the play-offs. Simon Easterby’s side have won their opening round fixtures in four of the last five seasons and the former Irish International will be hoping for another strong start as he looks to build on last season’s success.
“We need a strong start – a good result and performance like last year’s opening game gave us real momentum going into the next series of fixtures and that proved to be important in the end in helping us reach the top four.
“Resting some of the Lions players does affect them slightly more than us, as they have six but we know that Leinster are always going to be competitive. They are very effective and efficient with ball in hand and will be a challenge to us.
“All teams are looking for form in their opening game and want to hit the ground running in their opening game – regardless of how long the season is.
“We’re in a very positive place as a group, fitness wise we’ve been able to pick from a near full strength squad so that’s a bonus and the boys are eager to get going
Easterby has named a strong side with the only absentee’s British Lions centre Jon Davies (rested) and new signing Scotland flanker John Barclay.
Welsh International fly-half Rhys Priestland makes a welcome return to competitive rugby after an extended spell on the sidelines with the 22 times capped international starting at 10. That means new signing Steve Shingler moves to centre in partnership alongside Wales international Scott Williams.
Scarlets:15 Gareth Owen; 14 Liam Williams; 13 Scott Williams; 12 Steve Shingler; 11 Kristian Phillips; 10 Rhys Priestland; 9 Gareth Davies; 1 Phil John; 2 Ken Owens; 3 Samson Lee; 4 George Earle; 5 Jo Snyman; 6 Aaron Shingler; 7 Josh Turnbull; 8 Rob McCusker (capt).
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.