PRO14 Preview: Saturday, Sunday

Leinster host Scarlets and Cardiff Blues tackle Munster on Saturday while Benetton travel to take on the Dragons on Sunday in PRO14 action.

PRO14 Preview: Saturday, Sunday

PRO14 Preview: Saturday, Sunday

Leinster v Scarlets

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen is again able to call on a mixture of youth and experience as well as welcoming a number of players back in from Ireland camp including back-row Jordi Murphy who will win his 100th cap when he runs out at the RDS.

Fresh from his Ireland debut last weekend Jordan Larmour comes in for his 15th Leinster appearance of the season at full-back. Adam Byrne makes his first start since knee surgery having come off the bench last weekend in Edinburgh, while on the left wing James Lowe comes in.

In the centre it’s the same combination as last week with St Michael’s duo Noel Reid and Rory O’Loughlin again selected.

Luke McGrath starts at scrum-half and as captain with Ross Byrne outside him at number 10.

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac has made two changes to the starting XV with Steve Cummins and Josh Macleod replacing Lewis Rawlins and Will Boyde.

Steff Hughes will once again captain the side with club captain Ken Owens and regular deputies Scott Williams, Hadleigh Parkes and John Barclay away on international duty.

A result on the road would certainly be the icing on Hughes’ birthday cake, celebrating his 24th birthday on Saturday.

Tighthead prop Simon Gardiner will make his 50th appearance for the region when he comes off the replacements bench whilst loosehead prop Phil Price, on loan from Dragons, will make his PRO14 debut in a Scarlets jersey, having represented the region in the last two rounds of the Anglo-Welsh Cup.

The teams: 

Leinster: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12 Noel Reid, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath (c), 8 Max Deegan, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Josh Murphy, 5 Scott Fardy, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Seán Cronin, 1 Ed Byrne Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Oisín Heffernan, 19 Ian Nagle, 20 Will Connors, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Ciarán Frawley, 23 Barry Daly

Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Paul Asquith, 12 Steff Hughes (c), 11 Ioan Nicholas, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Josh Macleod, 7 James Davies, 6 Tadhg Beirne, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Dylan Evans Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Phil Price, 18 Simon Gardiner, 19 Lewis Rawlins, 20 Will Boyde, 21 Declan Smith, 22 Corey Baldwin, 23 Tom Williams

Date: Saturday, February 16 Venue: RDS Arena Kick-off: 15:00 GMT Referee: John Lacey (Ireland) Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland), Jonathan Peak (Ireland) TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

Cardiff Blues vs Munster

Cardiff Blues' record appearance maker, Taufa'ao Filise, has been called into the starting line-up for Saturday's PRO14 clash with Munster.

The Tongan international is the only change made from last week's 25-20 win over Cheetahs.

Filise replaces Anton Peikrishvili at tighthead, with the Georgian called up for international duty, as The Lelos are set to take on Germany in the Rugby Europe Championship.

Prop Filise lines-up in an experienced front-row alongside Matthew Rees and captain Gethin Jenkins, with a combined 219 international caps to boast.

Seb Davies is one of four Wales squad members released for regional duties this weekend, and he continues his partnership with George Earle at lock.

Last week's try-scorers, Nick Williams and Ellis Jenkins, combine in an unchanged back-row, alongside Macauley Cook.

Meanwhile, Jack O’Donoghue set to captain Munster for the first time on Saturday.

24-year-old O’Donoghue becomes the first Waterford player to captain Munster in the professional era having previously captained Munster A along with Waterpark, Munster and Ireland at underage level.

There are 10 changes to the side that recorded a bonus-point win over Zebre at Thomond Park last Saturday.

Stephen Fitzgerald, fresh from signing a new contract, comes in at full-back for his first start of the season as Ronan O’Mahony also makes his first start of the season on the left wing after a long-term injury with Darren Sweetnam on the opposite flank.

Ireland international Rory Scannell comes back into the side to partner Sammy Arnold in the centres with Ian Keatley partnering Duncan Williams at half-back.

A new front-row sees Dave Kilcoyne, Rhys Marshall and Stephen Archer all return to the starting XV.

Gerbrandt Grobler makes his first start in the PRO14 and partners Darren O’Shea in the second row as the Crosshaven man makes his ninth appearance of the campaign.

Captain O’Donoghue and number eight Robin Copeland, Man of the Match last week, keep their places in the back-row with Chris Cloete coming into the team at openside flanker.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Rhun Williams, 14 Aled Summerhill, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Owen Lane, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Macauley Cook, 5 Seb Davies, 4 George Earle, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c) Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Josh Turnbull, 20 Olly Robinson, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Ryan Edwards

Munster: 15 Stephen Fitzgerald, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Ronan O’Mahony, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Jack O’Donoghue (c), 5 Darren O’Shea, 4 Gerbrandt Grobler, 3 John Ryan, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Dave Kilcoyne Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 James Cronin, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Dave O’Callaghan, 21 James Hart, 22 Tyler Bleyendaal, 23 Simon Zebo

Date: Saturday, February 16 Venue: Cardiff Arms Park Kick-off: 17:30 GMT Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa) Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Rhys Thomas (Wales) TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)

Sunday

Dragons v Benetton

Dragons wing Rio Dyer will make his PRO14 debut this weekend as the Men of Gwent take on Benetton Rugby.

The 18-year-old, who earned his first Wales U20s International cap last weekend, will make his PRO14 bow in front of a home crowd on Sunday. 

The speedster, who made his Dragons bow against Saracens in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, is joined in the back three by last weekend’s man of the match Hallam Amos and fellow wing Jared Rosser. As versatile back Adam Warren moves into the centre to partner Jack Dixon, whilst the half-backs remain unchanged.

Sam Hobbs, Liam Belcher and Lloyd Fairbrother make up the front-row, whilst there are also no changes to the second-row as Joe Davies and Rynard Landman retain their positions. Skipper Harri Keddie moves from number eight to flanker as Dragons stalwart Lewis Evans makes his comeback from injury at eight, and Aaron Wainwright joins them in the back-row.

The replacements bench sees Arwel Robson named as he looks to make an impact off the bench following his recovery from an ankle injury. 

Benetton Rugby are without 11 players due to Italy call-ups, added to the unavailability of Robert Barbieri, Ignacio Brex, Angelo Esposito, Alberto De Marchi, Ornel Gega, Engjel Makelara, Michael Tagicakibau and Marco Riccioni.

Full-back will be Ian McKinley while Luca Sperandio and Monty Ioane are the wings, Tommaso Iannone and Luca Morisi are at centre while the half-backs are Tito Tebaldi and Marty Banks.

The front-row will consist of Matteo Zanusso, Tomas Baravalle and Tiziano Pasquali, the locks will be Marco Lazzaroni and Irné Herbst and finally the back-row sees Alberto Sgarbi, Marco Barbini and Whetu Douglas combine.

The teams:

Dragons: 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Rio Dyer, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Jared Rosser, 10 Zane Kirchner, 9 Dan Babos, 8 Lewis Evans, 7 Aaron Wainwright, 6 Harri Keddie (c), 5 Rynard Landman, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Sam Hobbs Replacements: 16 Ellis Shipp, 17 Gerard Ellis, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Henri Williams, 20 Lennon Greggains, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Arwel Robson, 23 Connor Edwards

Benetton: 15 Ian McKinley, 14 Luca Sperandio, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Whetu Douglas, 7 Marco Barbini, 6 Alberto Sgarbi (c), 5 Irné Hebst, 4 Marco Lazzaroni, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Tomas Baravalle, 1 Matteo Zanusso Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Cherif Traore, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Francesco Minto, 21 Giorgio Bronzini, 22 Marco Zanon, 23 Andrea Bronzini

Date: Sunday, February 17 Venue: Rodney Parade Kick-off: 15:30 GMT Referee: Quinton Immelman (South Africa) Assistant referees: Ian Davies (Wales), Simon Rees (Wales) TMO: Neil Hennessy (Wales)

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