Scarlets v Leinster teams for PRO14 final

Leinster vs Scarlets LIVE: Leinster v Scarlets teams for PRO14 final

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Leinster vs Scarlets

April 21, 2018, 3:00pm

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Leinster vs Scarlets Live
Leinster vs Scarlets Live Stream Online

The Scarlets travel to Dublin for their first Champions Cup semi-final since 2007 to take on tournament favourites Leinster at the Aviva Stadium.

Leinster have been in formidable form this campaign and are the only side unbeaten in this year’s tournament, but the Scarlets will draw on last season’s PRO12 campaign when they went to Dublin and knocked the Irish province out at the semi-final stage and went onto win the final at Saturday’s venue: Aviva Stadium.

No Welsh team has ever been crowned European champions – will the Scarlets buck that trend?

Here’s all you need to know ahead of the game……
Form
Stuart Barnes thinks Leinster will be too strong for Scarlets in their Champions Cup semi-final clash in Dublin

Leinster: DLWWL

Leinster were the top-ranked side throughout the pool phase, coming through a strong group that included Montpellier, Glasgow and Exeter with a 100 per cent record.

They followed up with a convincing 30-19 quarter-final win over defending champions Saracens earlier this month.
Sean Cronin talks Leinster’s winning culture, Tadhg Furlong’s head and missing teeth!

Leo Cullen’s men also top the PRO14 Conference B table – despite their shock 17-15 loss to Benetton last time out

Leinster are boosted by the return from injury of Ireland international centre Robbie Henshaw, who partners Garry Ringrose in midfield, with fly-half Johnny Sexton captaining the team.

Scarlets: DLWWL

The Scarlets’ European campaign started off with two losses to Toulon and Bath but they turned things around with four wins on the trot to top their pool.

In the quarter-final, 19 points from the boots of Leigh Halfpenny saw them to a 29-17 win over La Rochelle and booked them a place in the semi-finals.

The defending PRO12 champions are second behind Leinster on the PRO14 Conference B table but their second-string side were well beaten 52-14 by Edinburgh last weekend.

Head coach Wayne Pivac has moved Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny to the wing, with injuries sidelining Johnny McNicholl, Paul Asquith and Tom Prydie.
Rhys Patchell has moved to full-back for the match at the Aviva Stadium
Rhys Patchell has moved to full-back for the match at the Aviva Stadium

Halfpenny will wear the No 14 shirt, while Rhys Patchell moves from fly-half to full-back and Dan Jones moves into the team as Gareth Davies’ half-back partner.
Last meeting

Scarlets 10-10 Leinster, Parc y Scarlets, PRO14, March 2018

Fly-half Dan Jones kicked a last-gasp penalty to secure Scarlets a dramatic 10-10 draw against Leinster in their PRO14 clash.

The Scarlets were trailing 10-7 and just as the clock went red, referee Nigel Owens awarded the home side a lifeline and from 28 metres, Jones put the kick through the posts.
Key player
Johnny Sexton will hope to lead Leinster to a first European showpiece since 2012
Johnny Sexton will hope to lead Leinster to a first European showpiece since 2012

Johnny Sexton will once again be the key man for Leinster and the Scarlets will look to put him under huge pressure. The fly-half will also have the added burden of skippering the side and getting the best out of Jamison Gibson-Park at No 9.

For the Scarlets, second rower Tadhg Beirne will be relishing taking it to his former club. When he is not stealing lineouts, making tackles or scoring tries, he is turning the ball over – a formidable 53 this season and he will be a big ball carrier for the Scarlets as well.
Pre-match thoughts

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen: “We played them during the Six Nations and obviously they will have different players now, but they have the same traits.

“They were very good in the semi-final last year at the RDS and some new characters have emerged in both teams.
Head coach Leo Cullen and his Leinster side are on the cusp of reaching Bilbao
Head coach Leo Cullen and his Leinster side are on the cusp of reaching Bilbao

“They are a very efficient team that are very hard to break down. They have a lot of pace out wide and are very strong on turnovers with very skilful players.

“A huge amount of work has gone in behind the scenes and that will hopefully lead to a good performance.”

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac: “To be unbeaten in the competition, and to do that home and away against the
quality of their pool, shows the strength of their squad.
For us, it is a semi-final, it is an opportunity. It is 80 minutes away from creating history, being in our first (European) final. That is the way we are approaching it.

Wayne Pivac

“It is just going to be one of those games where, from the first whistle to the last, we’ve got to be at our best. Our discipline has got to be right up there.

“We know they are the favourites going in, and rightly so because of their form in the competition. You also go through their squad and most people would have them down as favourites.
Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac hopes to create history
Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac hopes to create history

“We are going to have to be sharp in our attack and make sure when those opportunities present themselves we are ready to capitalise. We have to take the points when they are on offer.

“Conversely, at the other end of the field we have to make sure we are disciplined and don’t give those chances to the opposition. We have to make sure our defence is the best it can be.

“For us, it is a semi-final, it is an opportunity. It is 80 minutes away from creating history, being in our first (European) final. That is the way we are approaching it.”
QUIZ: European Cup semi-finals

Champions Cup semi-final rugby is here! So have a go at our quiz ahead of the biggest games of the club season so far.
Team news

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney; 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Isa Nacewa; 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park; 1 Cian Healy, 2 Sean Cronin, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 4 Devin Toner, 5 James Ryan, 6 Scott Fardy, 7 Dan Leavy, 8 Jordi Murphy.

Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Jordan Larmour.

Scarlets: 15 Rhys Patchell; 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans; 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies; 1 Rob Evans, 2 Ken Owens, 3 Samson Lee, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 5 David Bulbring, 6 Aaron Shingler, 7 James Davies, 8 John Barclay.

Ulster vs Ospreys Live Rugby

Rumours of Gibbes move to France hang over Ulster’s vital play-off

The curious case of Jono Gibbes and La Rochelle continued yesterday with sources in France still believing the departing Ulster head coach will take a job with the Top 14 outfit.

Gibbes has long been known to be leaving Ulster due to a family issue back home in New Zealand and has already been confirmed as taking over at Waikato in the weeks ahead.

After initial scepticism on Ulster’s end, French media reports that the former Clermont and Leinster coach would visit La Rochelle on Thursday proved to be correct.

While it was a day off for Ulster and their staff, when Gibbes was tracked down by the club they were told that he had been in France but he would not have been in a position to accept any job offered due to his family situation.

But despite Waikato also having spoken to their incoming coach to discuss plans, sources continue to persist that he will be in the Top 14 next year.

With Ulster hosting Ospreys in a do-or-die Champions Cup play-off tomorrow (3.05), the timing of the confusion could hardly have been worse but it is understood that Gibbes took the meeting as something of a courtesy and still fully intends to return home in the coming weeks.
Departure

Gibbes took the job as Ulster head coach following Les Kiss’s departure at the end of January.

However, the 41-year-old soon announced that he would return to his native New Zealand this summer to be closer to an undisclosed family situation.

Dan McFarland, of course, has already been named as Ulster’s next head coach.

In more pressing matters, Ulster take on Ospreys at Kingspan Stadium with a place in next season’s Champions Cup on the line.

Having already lost Iain Henderson to injury, the province are without skipper Rory Best too after the hooker suffered a hamstring injury in training during the week.

His place in the number-two jersey, and as captain, is taken by Rob Herring.

Short of back-row options, Robbie Diack has been deployed in the six jersey alongside Nick Timoney and Sean Reidy, while academy lock Jack Regan, son of former Offaly hurler Daithi, could make his debut off the bench.

While it will be a last game in an Ulster jersey for Callum Black, Charles Piutau and Diack, there is no place in the 23 for any of the retiring trio of Tommy Bowe, Paul Marshall and Andrew Trimble.

Verdict: Ulster.

Ulster v Ospreys,

Live, tomorrow, BBC2 NI, 3.05

Ulster – C Piutau; L Ludik, L Marshall, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; J McPhillips, J Cooney; C Black, R Herring, R Kane; A O’Connor, K Treadwell; R Diack, S Reidy, N Timoney. Reps: J Andrew, A Warwick, T O’Toole, J Regan, C Henry, D Shanahan, D Cave, C Gilroy.

Ospreys – D Evans; J Hassler, A Beck, O Watkin, H Dirksen; D Biggar, T Habberfield; N Smith, S Otten, D Arhip; B Davies, AW Jones (c); D Lydiate, J Tipuric, J King. Reps: I Phillips, R Jones, M Fia, A Beard, S Cross, M Aubrey, C Allen, J Hook.

Argentina vs South Africa Live stream Rugby

South Africa unlikely to ditch Super Rugby

SUPER RUGBY bosses have branded a report that three more South African teams are set to withdraw from the competition to play in Europe as “simply wrong”.

The Durban-based Sharks have been named as the first to leave the current Super set-up to join the European PRO14 competition for 2019/20, according to a report in Wales Online.

The Cheetahs and Kings, who were cut from the down-sized Super Rugby last year, already play in the competition which includes teams form Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales.

The report said that the Lions and Stormers would likely follow suit by at least the start of the 2020/21 season.

LIVE stream the 2018 Super Rugby Season on FOX SPORTS. Get your free 2-week Foxtel Now trial & start watching in minutes. SIGN UP NOW

But SANZAAR, organisers of Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship said the report was unfounded and South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina remained committed to future participation.

“SANZAAR — through its joint venture partners — Australia, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa — is currently engaged in a detailed strategic planning process that will deliver a road-map for the organisation, Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship from 2018-2030,” SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos said in a statement on Monday.

“As part of this process the partners have fully committed to the strategy and future participation.

“Any talk of a change to the stakeholder relationship and partners withdrawing, and so-called trans-Tasman competitions is unsubstantiated speculation and simply wrong.”

Despite the Lions making the Super Rugby final last year, South Africa’s franchises are understood to feel they are handicapped due to the different time zones.

South African rugby has also seen an exodus of top players who chase lucrative deals in Europe, with the move to the PRO14 considered a way of stopping that trend.

The Cheetahs finished third in their conference this season to make the play- offs, and PRO14 organisers believe the inclusion of further South African sides would increase the standard of the competition.

Last week a Fairfax report revealed that Super Rugby bosses were looking at expanding into the USA, which now appears to be a contingency plan should the South African franchises jump ship.

Wales Online says the PRO14 income from television rights has risen from PS12million ($A22 million) to between PS20million and PS30million with a new deal for pay TV outfit Premier Sports to take over the broadcasting from next season.

Canterbury Bulldogs vs Parramatta Eels Live Stream

NRL fans tuning into tonight’s game to watch the Eels take on the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium might notice some familiar art work.

As part of the NRL Indigenous Round, both teams will be in special jerseys designed by Aboriginal artists, including Inverell’s Elenore Binge.

Having a long established relationship with the Canberra Raiders, Elenore was contacted by the Parramatta Eels around Christmas.

“I designed the Indigenous jerseys for the Raiders in 2014 and 2016. They used some of my 2016 designs in this year’s jersey and passed on my details to the Eels,” she said.

Elenore said she wanted to illustrate something meaningful that represented the Eels, taking just two days to come up with a concept.

The Eels design features two meeting places- one representing Sydney’s city and the other representing Parramatta, and a big eel.

“There’s a blue line that connects two two which is Parramatta’s river system. I researched online and found an aerial view of the river so I incorporated it in the design,” she said.

Named ‘Where the Eels Lie Down’, the colourful design also includes an image of a Dharug warrior with a spear.

Elenore found out in early February her design had been accepted by the club, and said it was hard to keep things under wraps.

“I told close family and friends. I have two siblings that are huge Parramatta fans- one’s my brother who lives in WA,” she laughed.

The Raiders 2018 design was an adaptation from Elenore’s artwork titled ‘culture’ with circles in the centre representing a meeting place and the six horse shoe shapes symbolising central aspects of Aboriginal culture.

“These are law, language, stories, song, dance and art. Current Raider players’ hand prints from various backgrounds form an outer circle around them to represent collaboration, unity and reconciliation.”

Elenore started painting at the age of 12. She recalled watching her great Aunt paint when she was little on the front verandah.

“She taught me basic symbols and animal, then I adapted my own style. Art breaks down barriers but for me its about the story behind the artwork,” she said.

The late Colin Wightman was a great mentor to the local artist, so much so that Elenore dedicated her Eels design to his memory.

“He used to sign his paintings with a little warrior and spear so to add a Dharug warrior holding a spear in the Eels design was a special tribute to him.

“Colin was also a huge Parramatta Eels fan so this is quite special to me,” she said.

Originally from Toomelah, Elenore has been in Inverell for almost a year now and even has a shop front in Otho Street.

Aboriginelle Designs is midway down the street and Elenore welcomed people to pop by and browse through her artwork.

“I do commissions and I’ve been sought after to do workshops with kids so I’ll be apart of this year’s NAIDOC celebrations out at Boggabilla and Delungra,” she said.

For more information, or to view her art head into 49 Otho Street, or email Elenore at aboriginelledesigns@gmail.com.

Elenore and her sister, as huge Parramatta supporters, will be live at the game tonight to watch the Eels take on the bulldogs.

Leigh Centurions vs Salford Red Devils Live stream

Five things to look forward to: Cup upsets, great TV coverage, future stars on show

It’s Challenge Cup weekend! It’s the sixth round of the Challenge Cup and there are a couple of mouth-watering clashes.

Featherstone Rovers host Hull FC on Thursday and that should be a cracker. The Rovers are flying high in the Championship at the minute, while Hull FC have a couple of key players out.

Leigh Centurions welcome Salford Red Devils to the Leigh Sports Village, too. This game could be decided by the flip of a coin. Salford have lost their last couple of games, while Leigh have won their last nine matches. Whitehaven also travel to Catalans, is this too big of a step for Haven? Well, stranger things have happened.

Great television coverage

We tend to see people bemoaning the media’s coverage of rugby league quite regularly now, but we can do anything but moan this weekend.

There will be FOUR Challenge Cup games shown LIVE, two by BBC and two by Sky Sports. Featherstone v Hull FC is on Sky on Thursday, Leigh v Salford is on Sky on Friday, Castleford v St Helens is on BBC One on Saturday and Warrington v Toronto is on BBC Two on Sunday.

And that’s not to mention three NRL games on Sky. New Zealand Warriors v Sydney Roosters, Melbourne Storm v Gold Coast Titans and Manly Sea Eagles v Brisbane Broncos are broadcast live on Saturday morning.

SEVEN games of rugby league!

Return of Ben Barba

A few people will probably comment on this claiming that ‘we are up Ben Barba’s backside!’ but we are not, we promise you, he is just a phenomenal player.

The 28-year-old has been incredible so far this season. Barba has 15 tries and 17 assists to his name in just 12 games and is the clear favourite for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel award this year. He is expected to return from injury on Saturday when Saints face Castleford Tigers in the Challenge Cup.

Wolfpack against the Wolves

Warrington Wolves will welcome Toronto Wolfpack to the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Sunday in the Challenge Cup. Could this be another upset? Can Toronto catch Warrington off guard? Or are Warrington just too strong at the minute? It has all of the ingredients to be a quality game.

The Wolfpack are travelling to face the Wolves. It has a ring to it, doesn’t it? Who are the real Wolves? All will be revealed on Sunday.

Toronto star Andy Ackers came through the Warrington academy a couple of years ago but didn’t make a first team appearance for the club. He will certainly be looking to get one over the Wolves and prove a point, alongside Matty Russell.

Future stars on show

The early stages of the Challenge Cup are brilliant chances to see some future internationals in the mix.

Super League clubs offer a chance to one or two of their younger players and it is great to see the teams giving youth a chance.

Josh Wood and Daniel Murray are great prospects at Salford, as is Matty English at Huddersfield. Wakefield have James Batchelor, Widnes have Jordan Johnstone and Ryan Ince, while Leeds have the likes of Jack Walker and Mikolaj Oledzki.

There will be a lot of up and coming talent on show this weekend.

Cardiff Blues vs Gloucester Live Stream

Cardiff Blues v Gloucester Challenge Cup final preview

Gloucester are aiming to equal Harlequins’ record of winning three European Challenge Cup finals in Bilbao on Friday night as they take on Cardiff Blues in the final.

The Blues also have pedigree in this tournament having beaten Toulon 28-21 in the 2010 final to become the first, and so far only, Welsh side to win a European title. The Cherry and Whites previous triumphs came in 2006 and 2015.

Taufa’ao Filise starts this final, just as he did in 2010, but Gethin Jenkins has been ruled out by injury, as has Alex Cuthbert. Ellis Jenkins, a co-captain for Wales’ summer tour, will lead the Blues with Ed Slater named as skipper for Gloucester.

Related: Wales squad for the 2018 summer tour

Here’s what else you need to know in the lead-up to the game…

How did the two teams reach this stage?

Cardiff Blues topped their pool, despite losing to Sale, and then beat Edinburgh 20-6 at Murrayfield in the quarter-finals and overcame Pau 16-10 in the last four.

Gloucester lost twice in their group games – to Pau home and away – before a 33-28 win over Connacht put them through to the semi-finals, where they saw off Newcastle 33-12.

Cardiff Blues head coach Danny Wilson: “It promises to be an electric occasion between two sides that like to run the ball and play attacking rugby.

“Gloucester will be highly motivated for a European final, will be well prepared and emotionally in a place that they will be bouncing to try to turn us over but that will be no different to ourselves.”

Gloucester head coach Johan Ackermann: “Cardiff are deservedly in the final. They’re a team with a lot of threats – a very good loose trio and a very good back-line.

“They’re a side who will fight for everything and I think it will be a great final between two sides that play a decent brand of rugby.”

Any interesting statistics?

These two sides have met once before in the Challenge Cup, Gloucester beating Cardiff Blues 46-26 in last year’s quarter-finals.
Gloucester have won 98% of their own scrums this season, losing just one of 58 against the head, which is a better record than any other team in the Challenge Cup.

Gloucester flanker Jake Polledri has beaten more defenders than any other forward in the competition (28).
The teams appear to play in contrasting styles, with Cardiff Blues averaging 16.9 points and 1.9 tries a game in the Challenge Cup while Gloucester average 39.9 points and 5.6 tries.
The Blues do fare better in the turnover stats, winning an average of 8.6 a game to Gloucester’s 7.1, and average fewer missed tackles too.

When does it kick off and is it on TV?

Bilbao’s San Mamés Stadium is hosting this year’s Challenge Cup final, which will kick off at 8pm UK time (9pm in Spain). It is being televised live on both BT Sport and Sky Sports.

It’s an all-French refereeing group with Jerome Garces holding the whistle and Romain Poite and Pascal Gauzere on the touchlines.

What are the line-ups?

CARDIFF BLUES: Gareth Anscombe; Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Blaine Scully; Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Rhys Gill, Kristian Dacey, Taufa’ao Filise, Seb Davies, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi, Ellis Jenkins, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Brad Thyer, Scott Andrews, Damian Welch, Olly Robinson, Lloyd Williams, Garyn Smith, Matthew Morgan.

GLOUCESTER: Jason Woodward; Tom Marshall, Billy Twelvetrees, Mark Atkinson, Henry Trinder; Billy Burns, Callum Braley; Josh Hohneck, James Hanson, John Afoa, Ed Slater (captain), Mariano Galarza, Jake Polledri, Lewis Ludlow, Ruan Ackermann.