McGahan’s calculated gamble

MUNSTER coach Tony McGahan handed the captain’s armband to seasoned international back-rower Denis Leamy, but named an experimental side to face Llanelli Scarlets in tonight’s Magners League clash in Wales.

There are three players retained from the side that started last week’s Amlin Cup quarter-final against Brive; Leamy, Lifeimi Mafi and Mick O’Driscoll.

The physical clashes against Brive, Leinster and Cardiff have taken their toll, according to McGahan, and tonight he is ready to risk not securing a home draw and top spot in the Magners to allow his front-line troops recover.

The policy also allows for McGahan to run the rule over some of his younger charges and he admitted: “There is no better place or opposition for players to test themselves than Scarlets on their home ground.”

The Scarlets, who lie sixth, field a strong back division that includes Scottish international Sean Lamont, Kiwi Regan King, Welsh wing sensation George North and Rhys Priestland alongside Travis Knoyle at half back. Stephen Jones is in the replacements after recovering from a wrist injury while Australian international David Lyons returns after a knee problem.

Quite what level of performance McGahan will demand from the side which includes Simon Zebo, Danny Barnes, Declan Cusack, Stephen Archer, Mike Sherry and Tommy O’Donnell is unclear, although one senses a stronger defensive performance than last week in Brive will be a priority. Johne Murphy, restored to the centre, admitted that assistant coach Anthony Foley had some harsh words for the team after their score concession the 42-37 win in France last weekend.

Murphy agreed everyone had reason to be disappointed: “It was great to get the win but our defence was disappointing after leaking four tries. We had a very harsh team meeting on Tuesday when Axel (Foley) described it as one of our worst defensive performances in about five years. We were delighted to score some unbelievable tries but there were a couple of aspects to our game that weren’t up to standard. Our defence and set-piece let us down and it was the sharpness of our back three (Felix Jones, Doug Howlett and Keith Earls) which won us the game. We’ve a lot to work on and we know it wasn’t anywhere near the complete performance. With the amount of missed tackles we had, in fact, it wasn’t a performance to be proud of.”

With three successive wins against top quality opposition to savour, McGahan has given responsibility to some of the younger brigade to keep the momentum going. And Murphy believes his wishes will be rewarded.

“We have a realistic ambition to win all the remaining games. At the start of the season, I remember we were setting goals saying we wanted to have a certain amount of points from a certain amount of games.

“Doug (Howlett) stood up and said that’s not the way it should be, that we should be looking to win every game and not even thinking about looking for losing bonus points. On that basis we h ave set ourselves a 10-week target and we have three down so far. That target was to have 10 out of 10 at the end and that’s what we’re going for. The positive thing is competitiveness is driving guys forward and hopefully will drive us to victory We probably have the toughest run-in of the challenging teams but we have great belief in our (squad) system.”

SCARLETS: M Stoddart, G North, R King, G Maule, S Lamont, R Priestland, T Knoyle, I Thomas, M Rees (c), R Thomas, L Reed, J Turnbull, R McCusker, J Edwards, D Lyons.

Replacements: E Phillips, R Jones, S Gardiner, A Shingler, D Welch, G Davies, S Jones, S Williams.MUNSTER: P Warwick; S Zebo, J Murphy, L Mafi, D Barnes; D Cusack, P Stringer; M Horan, M Sherry, S Archer; D Ryan, M O’Driscoll T O’Donnell, N Ronan, D Leamy (c).

Replacements: D Fogarty, D Hurley, J Hayes, A Quinlan, P Butler, D Williams, S Tuitupou, S Deasy.

MAGNERS LEAGUE

SCARLETS v MUNSTER

Today: Parc y Scarlets, 6.15pm

Referee: Alan Lewis

TV: TG4

Bet: Scarlets 2/7, Munster 5/2, Draw 22/1

More in this section

CourtsRugbyPlace: WalesPlace: BrivePlace: FrancePerson: McGahanPerson: Tony McGahanPerson: Denis LeamyPerson: LeamyPerson: Lifeimi MafiPerson: Mick O’DriscollPerson: Sean LamontPerson: Kiwi Regan KingPerson: George NorthPerson: Rhys PriestlandPerson: Travis KnoylePerson: Stephen JonesPerson: David LyonsPerson: Simon ZeboPerson: Danny BarnesPerson: Declan CusackPerson: Stephen ArcherPerson: Mike SherryPerson: Tommy O’DonnellPerson: Johne MurphyPerson: Anthony FoleyPerson: MurphyPerson: AxelPerson: FoleyPerson: Felix JonesPerson: Doug HowlettPerson: Keith EarlsPerson: DougPerson: HowlettPerson: M StoddartPerson: G NorthPerson: R KingPerson: G MaulePerson: S LamontPerson: R PriestlandPerson: T KnoylePerson: I ThomasPerson: M ReesPerson: R ThomasPerson: L ReedPerson: J TurnbullPerson: R McCuskerPerson: J EdwardsPerson: D LyonsPerson: E PhillipsPerson: R JonesPerson: S GardinerPerson: A ShinglerPerson: D WelchPerson: G DaviesPerson: S JonesPerson: S Williams.MUNSTERPerson: P WarwickPerson: S ZeboPerson: J MurphyPerson: L MafiPerson: D BarnesPerson: D CusackPerson: P StringerPerson: M HoranPerson: M SherryPerson: S ArcherPerson: D RyanPerson: M O’Driscoll T O’DonnellPerson: N RonanPerson: D LeamyPerson: D FogartyPerson: D HurleyPerson: J HayesPerson: A QuinlanPerson: P ButlerPerson: D WilliamsPerson: SPerson: S DeasyPerson: Alan LewisEvent: Amlin Cup quarter-Organisation: Llanelli ScarletsOrganisation: BriveOrganisation: LeinsterOrganisation: CardiffOrganisation: ScarletsOrganisation: TG4Organisation: Munster
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