Leinster welcome Cian Healy back to their starting line-up for the first time since September as they aim to return to winning ways in the Guinness Pro12 at Parc y Scarlets this evening.
The loosehead prop has made three substitute appearances at provincial and international level in recent weeks but Blues coach Matt O’Connor has opted to select him from the start for this tricky assignment against seventh-place Scarlets. He will be joined in an experienced Leinster pack by Rhys Ruddock, who has also returned from injury.
Reflecting on last week’s stalemate away to the Ospreys, Ruddock felt that the defending champions had improved on previous performances, but still accepted that more work is required. “As a team we went out with the mindset that there was a lot of room for improvement. I think we made a step in the right direction in a lot of areas but we still have a long way to go if we want to be at the level we set ourselves. It will be a similar challenge against Scarlets going away again.”
In the absence of Six Nations-tied stars for the past three games, Leinster’s form has been mixed — recording one win, one draw and defeat. Ruddock is confident of putting things right. “Our performance levels haven’t been good enough. As to why that is, we’ve just been too inaccurate. We haven’t got that same accuracy we had prior to this period. I think three weeks training together, and three games together, hopefully is enough to put things right this weekend.”
In addition to Healy, Leinster have also recalled Fergus McFadden and Luke Fitzgerald to their back-three. Both linked up with Joe Schmidt’s squad for the meeting of England, but ultimately didn’t feature in the match-day 23. Elsewhere in the back division, Ben Te’o will again partner Gordon D’Arcy in the centre after avoiding suspension for an alleged strike in last week’s encounter, while Eoin Reddan takes the place of Isaac Boss at scrum-half. Healy will be joined in the front-row by Sean Cronin and Marty Moore and at the back of the scrum, Ruddock is joined by Dominic Ryan and Jack Conan for fourth-placed Leinster.
Meanwhile France’s Jerome Garces will referee Leinster’s European Champions Cup quarter-final against Bath at the Aviva Stadium on April 4.
This will be the sixth time he has taken charge of the province in Europe with Leinster winning two, losing two and drawing one — their outing with Wasps in January.
LEINSTER: Z Kirchner, F McFadden, B Te’o, G D’Arcy, L Fitzgerald; J Gopperth, E Reddan; C Healy, S Cronin, M Moore; M McCarthy, K Douglas; R Ruddock, D Ryan, J Conan.
Replacements: R Strauss, M Bent, T Furlong, T Denton, J Van Der Flier, I Boss, N Reid, D Kearney.
SCARLETS: J Williams; H Robinson, R King, S Williams, H Parkes; S Shingler, A Davies; P John, K Owens, P Edwards; G Earle, J Snyman; L Rawlins, J Davies, K Barclay.
Replacements: R Elias, W Jones, J Adriaanse, J Payne, R Pitman, G Davies, R Priestland, A Warren.