Easterbys take centre stage as Leinster battle with Llanelli

GUY EASTERBY will make an emotional return to Llanelli Scarlets at Stradey Park today (5.30pm), but faces a battering from his brother Simon.

The veteran Leinster and Irish scrum-half takes over the position from Chris Whitaker against a side that features Simon, a fellow Irish international, as captain.

There are two changes to the Leinster team that defeated Cardiff Blues 16-9 last weekend. Trevor Hogan returns in place of Adam Byrnes, having recovered from an ankle injury.

Leinster have again named youngsters Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald alongside Kieran Lewis in the back three. It’s an inexperienced but exciting unit, with the young guns having a chance to shine before the return of the international contingent, the likes of Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy and Girvan Dempsey.

For now, the most experienced members of the back division are Denis Hickie, Easterby and Felipe Contepomi, who has been named captain.

Coach Michael Cheika has decided to rest Reggie Corrigan and Keith Gleeson but both have been named in a list of eight substitutes, a list that will be culled to seven later today.

Llanelli have made eight changes in personnel and a positional switch. Mark Jones gets his first start of the Magners League campaign, replacing Darren Daniel on the wing, while the other changes in the backline see Regan King and Dwayne Peel in for Gavin Evans and Clive Stuart-Smith.

Iestyn Thomas and Craig Dunlea are drafted into the front row, while Inoke Afeaki joins Scott Macleod in the second row. Captain Simon Easterby reverts to blind side flanker to allow Gavin Thomas and Alix Popham starting berths, James Bater dropping to the subs’ bench.

But the biggest talking point will surely be the clash of the Easterby brothers. While Chris Whitaker has taken up as number one choice scrum half, Easterby is being honoured with his selection against his old club. And invariably, when the diminutive scrum-half is offered a challenge, he takes it.

It should be a most interesting duel between the brothers. Additionally, it is a huge match for Leinster against the unbeaten Scarlets who have hit the league ground running with 14 points from a possible 15.

LLANELLI: C. Thomas, M. Jones, M. Watkins, R. King, D. James, S. Jones, D. Peel, I. Thomas, M. Rees, C. Dunlea, I. Afeaki, S. MacLeod, S. Easterby (captain), A. Popham, G. Thomas.

Replacements: D. Manu, K. Owens, A. Jones, J. Bater, C. Stuart-Smith, G. Evans, B. Davies.

LEINSTER: R. Kearney, L. Fitzgerald, K. Lewis, M. Berne, D. Hickie, F. Contepomi (captain), G. Easterby, R. McCormack, H. Vermaas, W. Green, T. Hogan, O. Finegan, S. Keogh, J. Heaslip, N Ronan.

Replacements from: R Corrigan, B Jackman, A Byrnes, D Toner, K Gleeson, C Whitaker, C Warner, G Brown.

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