Skipper Heaslip wary of new-look Scarlets

GUINNESS PRO12:

Skipper Heaslip wary of new-look Scarlets

It was an encouraging backdrop for the country’s four regions, a blank slate on which to enter a new PRO12 era fronted by Guinness and Sky, and the hope is that the newly discovered calm at home allows them to make waves further afield. The opening weekend didn’t exactly signify a sea change, with Ospreys and Cardiff recording predictable wins against Italian opposition, Dragons losing at the Sportsgrounds and the Scarlets being pegged back for a draw at home by Ulster.

Today’s visitors to the RDS arrive with a new coach in Kiwi Wayne Pivac, who originally signed up for a brief as forwards coach before being catapulted into the hot seat by Simon Easterby’s switch to Joe Schmidt’s Ireland backroom. Jonathan Davies was another high-profile loss over the summer but the region has recruited some decent stock in the likes of No.8 Rory Pitman from Wasps, centre Regan King from Clermont Auvergne and back row Chris Hala’ufia from London Irish. The latter two are unavailable today, as is fellow arrival and Fijian wing Michael Tagicakibau, as the visitors seek to end a winless streak at the Dublin venue stretching back to 2007.

Just as illustrative of the gap between the Llanelli-based club and the league champions is the fact Scarlets have claimed just one win in 13 meetings with the side now coached by Matt O’Connor.

Whether the recent rapprochement in Wales can do something to change all that remains to be seen but Jamie Heaslip remains wary of the Welsh threat, particularly now that the league table will play a greater part in deciding European duties. “I said when we were launching the league (in London last month) I thought Dragons were the best (Welsh) side when it came to recruitment,” said the Leinster captain.

“They got some notably experienced players back into the club. Scarlets as well got some good signings and they are bringing some young players through. They showed that last week.”

Heaslip, who missed Leinster’s disappointing defeat away to Glasgow last week, also suggested that the days of targeting the derby games and maybe one or two others against high-flying fish are over in this new dawn. Scarlets will no doubt agree with the need to prioritise points in every PRO12 game given their European ambitions look forlorn in a pool containing champions Toulon, Leicester and Ulster while Heaslip will look to walk the walk too, given this is his season debut. Rob Kearney and Devin Toner will also get their season underway this afternoon, Kearney’s appearance at full-back occasioning a shift to the right wing for Zane Kirchner while Toner partners Mike McCarthy in the second row.

With Brian O’Driscoll retired, new signing Ben Te’o yet to arrive from Australia, Gordon D’Arcy still not match fit and Noel Reid injured, it will fall to Ian Madigan and Brendan Macken to patrol the Leinster midfield.

LEINSTER: R Kearney, Z Kirchner, B Mackin, I Madigan, D Fanning; J Gopperth, I Boss; J McGrath, S Cronin, M Ross; D Toner, M McCarthy; D Ryan, S Jennings, J Heaslip (C).

Replacements: B Byrne, C Healy, T Furlong, B Marshall, K McLaughlin, E Reddan, S Crosbie, M McGrath.

SCARLETS: L Williams, H Robinson, G Owen, S Williams, J Williams, R Priestland, R Williams, P John, K Owens (C), R Jones, J Ball, J Snyman, A Shingler, J Barclay, R Pitman.

Replacements: E Phillips, R Evans, P Edwards, R Kelly, R McCusker, A Davies, S Shingler, A Warren.

More in this section

CourtsRugbyPlace: IrelandPlace: LONDON IRISHPlace: DublinPlace: WalesPlace: LondonPlace: GlasgowPlace: AustraliaPerson: Wayne PivacPerson: Simon EasterbyPerson: Joe SchmidtPerson: Jonathan DaviesPerson: Rory PitmanPerson: Regan KingPerson: Chris Hala’UfiaPerson: Michael TagicakibauPerson: Matt O’ConnorPerson: Jamie HeaslipPerson: HeaslipPerson: Rob KearneyPerson: Devin TonerPerson: KearneyPerson: Zane KirchnerPerson: TonerPerson: Mike McCarthyPerson: Brian O’DriscollPerson: Ben Te’oPerson: Gordon D’ArcyPerson: Noel ReidPerson: Ian MadiganPerson: Brendan MackenPerson: R KearneyPerson: Z KirchnerPerson: B MackinPerson: I MadiganPerson: D FanningPerson: J GopperthPerson: I BossPerson: J McGrathPerson: S CroninPerson: M RossPerson: D TonerPerson: M McCarthyPerson: D RyanPerson: S JenningsPerson: J HeaslipPerson: B ByrnePerson: C HealyPerson: T FurlongPerson: B MarshallPerson: K McLaughlinPerson: E ReddanPerson: S CrosbiePerson: M McGrathPerson: L WilliamsPerson: H RobinsonPerson: G OwenPerson: S WilliamsPerson: J WilliamsPerson: R PriestlandPerson: R WilliamsPerson: P JohnPerson: K OwensPerson: R JonesPerson: J BallPerson: J SnymanPerson: A ShinglerPerson: J BarclayPerson: R PitmanPerson: E PhillipsPerson: R EvansPerson: P EdwardsPerson: R KellyPerson: R McCuskerPerson: A DaviesPerson: S ShinglerPerson: A WarrenEvent: PRO12Organisation: ScarletsOrganisation: LeinsterOrganisation: Welsh Rugby UnionOrganisation: SkyOrganisation: OspreysOrganisation: CardiffOrganisation: DragonsOrganisation: UlsterOrganisation: RDSOrganisation: Clermont AuvergneOrganisation: ToulonOrganisation: Leicester
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