Leinster wary of 'on the edge' Scarlets breakdown threat as they bid to re-take summit

Leinster product Tadhg Beirne will be hoping to give his new club the upper hand at the RDS tonight.

Image: Simon King/INPHO

MOMENTS AFTER TALKING about the forthcoming arrival of a new second row option for next season, Leo Cullen soon brought himself back to speaking about a homegrown lock who will be hoping to keep Leinster off the top of the Pro12 this evening (19.35, TG4).

One-time Clongowes schoolboy Tadhg Beirne will be in the heart of the Scarlets pack for their visit to the RDS tonight.

The post-team announcement conversation yesterday revolved around the out-half pecking order at Leinster. but with conditions in Dublin looking set to be on the wet side of soggy, the engine room powerhouses are likely to have more of a say in the outcome.

“I’m delighted for Tadhg,” Cullen says with a warmth at odds with the Baltic surrounds of the RDS.

Cullen mentions an unfortunate run of injuries that blighted the Kildare man’s time in his native province. Having come through the same Ireland U20s crop as Iain Henderson, Stuart Olding, Josh van der Flier, Tadhg Furlong and JJ Hanrahan, Beirne managed just four senior appearances for Leinster on top of ‘A’ team duties in the British and Irish Cup.

Cullen isn’t in the least bit surprised to see him excel in Scarlets, where a December win over Toulon has been a stand-out moment.

Leo Cullen Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“We had a couple of really good discussions in terms of him furthering his own career and I think it was a really good move for him. And again, he took a few weeks or months to break into the team, but he’s gone really well in the last ten or 12 weeks, and we’re delighted to see him do well.”

Cullen’s Six Nations window has gone exceptionally smooth so far. Not only have his side gained maximum points even when bereft of their front-line internationals, they have done so in style putting up scores of 40, 39 and 54 in their last three outings.

Fourth-placed Scarlets are a different prospect however, and Cullen is only too aware that the November defeat in Llanelli was going the home side’s way long before Barry Daly’s red card.

Isa Nacewa after the game Source: Craig Thomas/INPHO

If there’s not to be a fast track for either side to work on, then fast ball will likely determine which way the contest swings. Leinster and Scarlets boast the league’s two in-form breakdown merchants with opensides James Davies (20) and Dan Leavy (19) leading this season’s turnover stats.

Cullen responds with a wry smile and a raised eyebrow when asked about the threat of Davies.

“He plays on the edge,” he says succinctly before welcoming the appointment of Nigel Owens, a “strong official”.

“I though Dan (Leavy) did really well (against Edinburgh). He came on into the game early when we lost Dominic Ryan early and Josh (van der Flier) in the back row…

“He got man of the match and went really, really well. He got back into the national squad and was 24th man (v France), so yeah, he’s making really good progress.

“It’s another really good chance for him against quality back row. They have a lot of threat to the ball. Aaron Shingler has been around a bit longer, but Will Boyde and James Davies, the two of them in particular, have a very strong presence with the ball.

“It’s a big game for Dan, big game for all our back rowers, a big game for all of our players, because we’re coming up against a good team that are in really good form.”

Two in-form teams, first against fourth: should be a good’un (whatever the weather).


15. Joey Carbery
14. Adam Byrne
13. Zane Kirchner
12. Noel Reid
11. Fergus McFadden
10. Ross Byrne
9. Luke McGrath

1. Peter Dooley
2. Richardt Strauss Capt
3. Michael Bent
4. Ross Molony
5. Hayden Triggs
6. Rhys Ruddock
7. Dan Leavy
8. Jack Conan

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16. Bryan Byrne
17. Ed Byrne
18. Mike Ross
19. Mike McCarthy
20. Max Deegan
21. Jamison Gibson-Park
22. Tom Daly
23. Barry Daly


15 Johnny Mcnicholl
14 Tom Williams
13 Steff Hughes
12 Hadleigh Parkes Capt
11 DTH van der Merwe
10 Dan Jones
9 Jonathan Evans

1 Wyn Jones
2 Ryan Elias
3 Werner Kruger
4 Tom Price
5 Tadhg Beirne
6. Aaron Shingler
7 James Davies
8 Will Boyde


16. Dafydd Hughes
17. Luke Garrett
18. Nicky Thomas
19. Rynier Bernardo
20. Morgan Allen
21. Declan Smith
22. Aled Thomas
23. Ioan Nicholas

Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)

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Sean Farrell

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