We're a lot harder now, warn Scarlets
JOSH Turnbull has warned Leinster they will face a tougher Scarlets side when the European champions visit Parc y Scarlets this evening (6.30).
The West Walians have been taught some harsh lessons up front in recent seasons, particularly in the high-profile European contests.
But the Scarlets have sought to eradicate that weakness by signing four locks — George Earle, Tomas Vallejos, Jake Ball and Richard Kelly — as well as South African prop Jacobie Adriaanse this summer.
Two-time Celtic champions Leinster will pose a formidable challenge in their RaboDirect Pro12 opener this evening, even without their international stars.
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However, Scarlets flanker Turnbull, who packs down at openside, insists the home forwards are ready to prove a few points.
“Maybe in the past we have been said to be an easy touch, but I’d like to think we’ve got a tough group now,” said the Wales international.
“Guys like George Earle and Tomas Vallejos are big signings. These players are key for us.
“The fact they want to hit rucks and do the donkey work is massive for us.
“A bit of grunt up front is what we need, and maybe that’s what’s been missing in the last few seasons.
“We’ve got one of the best back lines in Europe and we need to give them ball to play with.”
Tomorrow’s game will be Simon Easterby’s first competitive match since succeeding Nigel Davies as head coach in the close season.
The Scarlets could hardly have wished for a more rigorous first test but, with a number of international players missing, Turnbull reckons his side could topple their lofty opponents.
“I’m looking forward to getting the season started,” he said. “We’ve got a good squad at the Scarlets and we’re looking to push on from last season.
“Simon’s done a great job so far. He’s tried to put his own stamp on things, which is good.
“It’s an opportunity for us to win, but you can never write Leinster off.
“The reason they’ve been Heineken Cup champions and league champions is because they’ve used their squad so well.
“They’ve got a big, deep squad and what’s going to be key for us is concentrating on our own performance and getting that win.”
The Scarlets have included Grand Slam winners George North, Scott Williams, Ken Owens and Aaron Shingler in their starting XV, while Jonathan Davies and Rhys Priestland have recovered from injury to take their places on the bench.
Richard Kelly, a summer arrival from the Ospreys, is rewarded for his impressive display against London Welsh last weekend with his league debut alongside another player making his first Pro12 start, South African George Earle.
Rob McCusker leads the side from No. 8, with last year’s captain Matthew Rees among the replacements as well as Wales Under-20s tight-head Samson Lee, who is in line for his first league appearance.
Scarlets: Liam Williams; G. North, G. Maule, S. Williams, A. Fenby; A. Thomas, T. Knoyle; R. Jones, K. Owens, D. Manu, G. Earle, R. Kelly, A. Shingler, R. McCusker (capt), J. Turnbull. Reps: M. Rees, P. John, S. Lee, S. Timani, K. Murphy, G. Davies, R. Priestland, J. Davies.
Leinster: I. Nacewa; A. Conway, B. Macken, N. Reid, F. Carr; I. Madigan, I. Boss; H. van der Merwe, R. Strauss, J. Hagan. D. Browne, D. Toner, D. Ryan, L. Auva’a, S. Jennings (capt). Reps: A. Dundon, J. McGrath, M. Moore, T. Denton, J. Murphy, J. Cooney, C. O’Shea, D. Hudson.