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Scarlets V Leinster And Dragons V Ulster Previews

Scarlets V Leinster And Dragons V Ulster Previews
Cian Tracey
By Cian Tracey
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Scarlets V Leinster

Team News:

Leinster open their Rabo Pro12 title defence with a tricky looking trip to Llanelli on Friday night. The Scarlets will play host in what is Matt O'Connor's first competitive game in charge of Leinster.

Jimmy Gopperth will make his debut for Leinster when he forms a half back partnership with Eoin Reddan. Reddan made his return to action following a broken leg in last weekend's friendly defeat to Northampton. The scrum half came through the game unscathed and makes his first competitive appearance since suffering a horrific leg break against France in last season's Six Nations campaign.

Gordon D'arcy and Luke Fitzgerald also make welcome returns from injury. D'arcy who missed last season's Amlin Cup and Rabo Pro12 finals with a calf injury. Fitzgerald on the other hand hasn't featured since last March and forms an exciting back three with Dave Kearney and debutant Darragh Fanning who starts on the right wing. Fanning enjoyed a fine season for AIL club side St. Mary's College last year, following a spell in Australia with the Tuggeranong Vikings. At 26, Fanning is a testament to the quality currently being produced in the All Ireland League.

Jimmy Gopperth makes his first competitive start. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Jimmy Gopperth makes his first competitive start. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Elsewhere, Shane Jennings captains the side in Leo Cullen's absence while two products of the Leinster academy - Jack McGrath and Martin Moore will prop at either side of the scrum.


Scarlets and Leinster both met on the opening day of last season's Pro12 competetion when the Welsh side romped to a comfortable 45-20 win. Scarlets were dealt a huge blow with the news that George North has left for Northampton. But nevertheless, the continue to produce a plethora of high quality youngsters.

Rhys Priestland is one of the leading lights of Welsh rugby at the moment and is primed for another big season. He starts at fly half with new signing Steve Shingler shifting to the centre alongside Scott Williams. His namesake, Liam starts on the wing and is another exciting Welsh prospect. Jonathan Davies continues to be rested following a busy summer for the Lions. Look out for Jordan Williams coming off the bench. The 19 year-old was one of the stars of Wales side that reached that U20 World Cup final during the summer.

Priestland is set for another big season with the Scarlets & Wales. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Priestland is set for another big season with the Scarlets & Wales. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Pre Season Form:

Leinster go into their season opener on the back of two defeats. A slender two point loss to Ulster at Ravenhill was followed by a home defeat to Northampton. Leinster fans won't be too concerned with the results as Matt O'Connor looks to find his feet. With his predecessor Joe Schmidt enduring a difficult start to his tenure, Leinster fans know all too well the importance of giving a new coach time.

Scarlets have an extra pre season game under their belts. They opened with a home defeat at the hands of the Exeter Chiefs and followed it with a draw against London Welsh as a young Scarlets side showed plenty of character in a second half fightback. The preseason campaign finished on a disappointing note when a stronger XV were beaten 31-17 by Gloucester.



Leinster. Just.



Scarlets: 15 Gareth Owen, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Steve Shingler, 11 Kristian Phillips, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Rob McCusker (capt), 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Jo Snyman, 4 George Earle, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Phil John.

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.


Kick off is at 19:05 on Friday night and is live on RTE.ie and on BBC Wales. There will also be a replay of the game on RTE2 at 12:35 am on Saturday.

Newport Gwent Dragons V Ulster

Team News


Last season's beaten finalists, Ulster will be without several key names for their Rabo12 opener away to the Dragons. Paddy Jackson gets the nod at fly half with Jared Payne starting at 15, making up a back three alongside the experienced Andrew Trimble and David McIlwaine who returned to the northern province at the back end of last season following a spell with Bristol. Luke Marshall will be hoping to build on his impressive last season in which he won his first Ireland cap.

Jackson starts at fly half for Ulster Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Jackson starts at fly half for Ulster. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Johan Muller skippers the side and forms a formidable looking second row partnership with Dan Tuohy. Mark Anscombe will be without his wrecking ball, Nick Williams as the powerful Kiwi has returned to New Zealand for family reasons. Roger Wilson deputies on his absence.

Black, Herring and Lutton make up a largely inexperienced front row but Anscombe will take comfort in the knowledge that he has the likes of Tom Court and Declan Fitzpatrick to call upon from the bench. Ulster's Lions, Rory Best and Tommy Bowe both miss out.

The Dragons will be hoping for a big improvement on last season when they finished second from bottom and only managed to win six league games. They've had a busy summer as they attempt to build their squad ahead of another long season. Richie Rees, T. Rhys Thomas and Matthew Screech all make their first competitive starts while Netani Talei and Kris Burton are among the replacements. Talei has been capped 28 times by Fiji while Burton is a former Italian international and has plenty of Rabo12 experience with Treviso.

Andrew Coombs captains the side as he takes over the Dragon's captaincy for the coming season. The powerful Welsh second row is another of the talented Welsh players that will be looking to continue his progress with the national side ahead of the Autumn internationals.

Coombs begins his tenure as captain of Dragons Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Coombs begins his tenure as captain of Dragons. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Pre Season Form:

Ulster enjoyed a win over rivals Leinster in what was the first game played at the newly developed Ravenhill. However a week later they suffered a 20 point defeat at the hands of Leicester Tigers.

The Dragons played just a single pre season friendly. A 22-20 at home to Bath gives Lyn Jones the perfect platform for his side to kick on ahead of the season opener.




Dragons: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Lewis Evans, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Jevon Groves, 5 Andrew Coombs (capt), 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Dan Way, 2 T.Rhys Thomas, 1 Aaron Coundley.?
Replacements: 16 Hugh Gustafson, 17 Phil Price, 18 Francisco Chaparro, 19 Adam Jones, 20 Netani Talei, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Kris Burton, 23 Ross Wardle.

Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Chris Farrell, 11 David McIlwaine, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Johann Muller (capt), 3 Ricky Lutton, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Tom Court, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Sean Doyle, 21 Ian Porter, 22 James McKinney, 23 Darren Cave.

Kick off is at 19:15 on Friday and is live via the BBC red button and online on the BBC Sport NI website.

Cian Tracey is a freelance sports journalist currently writing for The Irish Independent, Examiner, The Sun and Balls.ie.

Follow him on Twitter.

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