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Usually the opening few weeks of the season is the rugby equivalent of what we do when we get in the bath. We dip our toes, slowly test the temperature of the water with our hanging bottoms before diving in. I was expecting a similar approach from Leinster this year with player management, a long season and players needing breaks. But to my joy and surprise, Leinster have decided to jump into the hot bath and have named a fairly deadly looking team to take on Scarlets this weekend in the Parc Y Scarlets.
In the opening weekend the Scarlets marched up to Kingspan expecting a big win. Sporting logic agreeing with them. But the Ulstermen stood up, as did the small crowd in attendance and John Cooney led a reinvigorated team to a win. Scarlets will look to bounce back against a Leinster side who missed too many tackles but won very ugly. They put themselves in a position to steal the game (it was a robbery in fairness) and did so. They know there is massive need to improve, with the Newcastle drubbing from pre-season still in the mind.
So would Leo continue to blood the youngsters as he correctly has done in preseason and in the opening game? Or would the front liners be brought back? The answer is a beautiful mixture of experience and slightly less experience. Not new players but players with slightly less game time. The front row starters are back, Healy, Cronin and Furlong start with Porter, Dooley and Tracey on the bench. Toner and Nagle in the second row with Kearney on the bench (mick), Murphy, Ruddock and Conan in the back row with the monster Max Deegan ready to come on and dominate. Whiskey, Byrne, Lowe, the Hensh, Rory O’Loughlin (star), Fer and Larmour (as in armour) finish off the starters with MgGrath, Reid and Tomane on the bench.
I must say I am salivating at that team selection.
Recent form points to a Leinster win, they have won 4 of the last 5. But the Scarlets are annoyed now, they expected an opening weekend win and to put a marker down, instead they were sent packing. Can Leinster up their intensity and tackle count? They did look like a slightly rusty team last week, but there where a massive amount of new players in the squad finding their way. This week will be a different story. Leinster know already that if they are within a sniff of the game they usually win it. Scarlets already know that which plays with their mind before the whistle. They know they have to score, they will be playing their lovely to watch rugby but if they go behind early and Leinster gain momentum especially in the championship minutes, then I can see a decent score put up by the visitors.
But, Scarlets have near full selection, they have something to prove, they are on the verge of being the nearly men of the Pro 14. They will scrap hard which is why Leinster need a big aggressive start.
For me it is a close Leinster win, Deegan to wreak havoc when he comes on, Byrne to control the show and Lowe to dazzle for the win.