Scarlets will quickly blank Saturday blushes

Wayne Pivac

As far as preparation goes for your biggest game in a decade, a 50-point hammering is not ideal.

But despite being thrashed 52-14 by Edinburgh, the Scarlets will resemble an altogether different foe for Leinster in Saturday’s Champions Cup semi-final compared to the team beaten in Scotland at the weekend.

With their focus fully on Europe’s last four and a trip to the Aviva Stadium, Scarlets rested all of their first-choice XV at BT Murrayfield and paid the price, shipping eight tries in the process. “Our young guys will have learned a lot from this and we’ll go home and debrief, but of course we’ve had the other team preparing for Leinster,” said Scarlets boss Wayne Pivac.

“We knew it was going to be a big task for some of the young boys and there will be a lot of learnings for them.”

Tries from Blair Kinghorn, a Duhan van der Merwe brace, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Magnus Bradbury, Luke Crosbie, Mark Bennett and Nathan Fowles put Scarlets to the sword.

Pivac’s men struck back before the break through Tom Varndell and Dan Jones, but it’s unlikely many of the men who started for the Scarlets in Edinburgh will begin against Leinster.

Jones, Ioan Nicholas and David Bulbring are possible exceptions, but Scarlets will bring back an army of Wales internationals.

Leinster also rotated and went down to a shock 17-15 reversal to Benetton and will do likewise with their contingent of Joe Schmidt’s Irish Grand Slam winners.

“There’s no damage limitation involved with us, we are going out to Dublin to win and we are confident we can do that,” said Wales and Scarlets centre Scott Williams.

“It is very tough to compete on two fronts, not just physically, but mentally. Trying to get yourself up for a big game when you’ve got another big game the week after is draining. But we’ve got a good enough squad here at the moment to be able to rotate a little bit and to give some boys a breather. I think Wayne has managed the boys very well.”

Williams and Hadleigh Parkes will form an all-Welsh centre pairing against Leinster. Their fellow internationals Rob Evans, Ken Owens, Samson Lee, James Davies, Gareth Davies, Rhys Patchell and Leigh Halfpenny will also all come back into the side.

Williams is relishing a midfield battle with young Ireland star Garry Ringrose. “He’s still quite young, but I’ve played against him a few times and Garry is a very good player,” he said.

“I played against Brian O’Driscoll twice and Ringrose has definitely got the potential to be as good as him. I thought he was unlucky not to go on the Lions tour, but he was up against some good competition and I definitely think he’s got some good years ahead.”

The only real selection headache for the Scarlets this weekend is in their back division. Paul Asquith tore his hamstring off the bone in the quarter-final win over La Rochelle. Pivac must decide on whether to replace him with young gun Nicholas on the wing or shift Halfpenny from full-back to the touchline. In that latter case Patchell would most likely revert to the 15 jersey with Jones coming in at out-half. “Leinster are definitely going to be a handful. They’ve got a few injuries, but their wings are playing well and Rob Kearney at full back is also dangerous,” Williams said. “They’ve got a good squad at the moment.”


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