All you need to know about the first-ever Pro14 final
Leinster v Scarlets Guinness Pro14 final preview
It’s the defending champions against the European champions in this year’s Guinness Pro14 final on Saturday evening. Scarlets reigned supreme in last season’s tournament, beating Leinster and Munster in the knockout stages to lift the trophy, while Leinster’s recent win over Racing 92 means they equalled Toulouse’s record of four European Cup titles.
The two sides are familiar foes and Scarlets have yet to beat Leinster this season. They lost 20-13 at the RDS and drew 10-10 at Parc y Scarlets in the league, then lost 38-15 at the Aviva Stadium – the same venue as this final – in the Champions Cup semi-finals.
Plus, the Welsh region haven’t had the best preparation. Not only will they be missing John Barclay, who ruptured his Achilles tendon against Glasgow last week, but they were unable to train as a whole squad until Thursday as players recovered from burns and blisters suffered during that win over the Warriors on Scotstoun’s artificial pitch.
Hadleigh Parkes will make his 100th Scarlets appearance in the final while Leigh Halfpenny returns at full-back after recovering from a hamstring injury that saw him miss last week’s semi-final. Barclay’s injury means Tadhg Beirne will start at No 8 with Lewis Rawlins coming into the second row.
For Leinster, Isa Nacewa will captain the province in what will be his last game for them while Rob Kearney, Johnny Sexton and Dan Leavy also return to the starting line-up.
How did the two teams reach this stage?
Leinster finished top of Conference B ahead of the Scarlets by dint of a better points difference – both sides finished on 70 points and 14 wins – and so moved straight to the semi-finals, where they pipped Munster 16-15 in Dublin.
Defending champions Scarlets went into a play-off against the Cheetahs – third in Conference A – and thrashed the South African side 43-8 to reach the last four. They had to travel to Glasgow but beat the Warriors 28-13 to reach the final at the Aviva Stadium.
What have the coaches said?
Leinster’s Leo Cullen: “Once they have a lead they are so difficult to play against because they have so many men defending in the front line and they make life very uncomfortable for teams. They’re very dangerous in terms of taking the chances they have.”
Related: The remarkable story of Tadhg Beirne
Scarlets Wayne Pivac: “They taught us a real lesson a month ago. It was a tough one to take. We felt we didn’t fire any shots as a group. We want to put out a better account of ourselves.”
Any interesting statistics?
- Having already won the Champions Cup, Leinster are aiming to become the first side to complete a European Cup and Pro14 (in all the league’s various guises) double. Only English and French clubs have previously completed the European Cup and domestic league double.
- Scarlets are aiming to becoming only the second side, after Leinster, to successfully defend this league title. Leinster won the trophy back-to-back in 2013 and 2014.
- Leinster’s Barry Daly is the top try-scorer in this season’s Pro14 with 12. Steff Evans is the highest Scarlet on the list with eight and Tadhg Beirne is the highest-ranked forward with seven.
- Tadhg Beirne’s 37 turnovers won in the league are 15 more than the next best on the list, Nick Williams with 22.
- Leinster scored more tries than any other team during the regular Pro14 season with 83. Scarlets crossed the line 69 times.
When does it kick off and is it on TV?
The final kicks off at 6pm – it has been moved forward half an hour to accommodate interest in the Champions Cup final later on Saturday night – and will be televised live on Sky Sports, with coverage starting at 5.30pm. It will also be broadcast live on S4C and TG4, and RTE radio and BBC Radio Wales.
South African referee Stuart Berry will take charge of the game with Italian Marius Mitrea and Scot Mike Adamson his assistants.
What are the line-ups?
LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Isa Nacewa (captain), James Lowe; Johnny Sexton, Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock, Dan Leavy, Jack Conan.
Replacements: James Tracey, Jack McGrath, Andrew Porter, Scott Fardy, Jordi Murphy, Nick McCarthy, Joey Carberry, Rory O’Loughlin.
SCARLETS: Leigh Halfpenny; Johnny McNicholl, Scott Williams, Hadleigh Parkes, Steffan Evans; Rhys Patchell, Gareth Davies; Rob Evans, Ken Owens (captain), Samson Lee, Lewis Rawlins, Steven Cummins, Aaron Shingler, James Davies, Tadhg Beirne.
Replacements: Ryan Elias, Wyn Jones, Werner Kruger, David Bulbring, Will Boyde, Jonathan Evans, Daniel Jones, Tom Prydie.
Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.