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Wayne Pivac Insists Scarlets Surge Shows They Will Stay At Top Table

Wayne Pivac believes his Scarlets side are already proving that winning the Guinness Pro title 12 last season was not a one-off.

The defending champions were ruthless in disposing of Glasgow last week and they will pose a real threat to Leinster’s hopes of clinching an historic double at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening after the Irish province triumphed again in Europe a fortnight ago.

The Scarlets’ last visit to Dublin didn’t quite go according to plan, however, as they were hammered by Leinster in the Champions Cup semi-final last month.

“We don’t really want to be a one-season wonder and I think we’re seeing that with the growth of the side over the last two seasons,” said head coach Pivac.

“To get to this final and semi-finals in Europe is progression from last year and we’d like to build on that again next year.

“We’ve certainly looked at that game last month and were obviously very disappointed at the time in the sense that we didn’t really fire too many shots at them.

“But we feel like we’re building nicely and have room to improve and that’s a good space to be in.

“It’s definitely what we’ve been aiming for since day one from my arrival here, to build something that could go on for a long time.”

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The Scarlets can draw on the positives of their last tournament visit to the Aviva Stadium, however, when they lifted the trophy a year ago, securing a record breaking winning margin in any championship final over Munster.

Looking ahead to returning to the venue, Wales prop Rob Evans said: “We’re happy to be in the final again. The disappointment of the last time we were there is a bit of a motivation for us and we’re excited for the challenge ahead.

“We came out of that game feeling that we were back to being an average team. We didn’t put any pressure on them. We were broken after that but since then we’ve been building back to where we were and I think we’re slowly getting there.

“We scored some great tries in the semi final against Glasgow last week. The belief is there. It’s all about us now and what we can do.

“For me it’s motivation to get back out there and right the wrongs of what we did in Europe. We need to go out there and show exactly what we can do.

“They’ve come a long way since that loss in last year’s semi-final. They’ve got so many of Ireland’s Grand Slam winners in that team.

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“We’ve got to show up to the party this time. They’re a pretty physical team. For us we have to get in there nice and early and be aggressive. Not many teams can keep up with us when we get quick ball. We simply have to be better than them.”

Scarlets and Wales centre Hadleigh Parkes will make his 100th regional appearance.

British & Irish Lion fullback Leigh Halfpenny returns from a hamstring injury that saw him miss last weekend’s semi-final victory.

Johnny McNicholl, who made a return from injury in time for last weekend’s clash, moves to the wing with Tom Prydie moving to the replacements bench.

With John Barclay unavailable following surgery to a ruptured Achilles tendon, Pivac has made changes to the pack. Tadhg Beirne moves to No.8, partnering James Davies and Aaron Shingler in the back row.

Lewis Rawlins comes in to the second row to partner Steve Cummins whilst the front row remains unchanged.

Jonathan Sexton has been passed fit to lead all-conquering Leinster’s assault on an historic trophy double.

Sexton has shrugged off a calf problem to take his place in a side which will also be boosted in their quest for an historic European and domestic double by the inclusions of Dan Leavy and the retiring Isa Nacewa.

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Sexton struggled with the injury during the Champions Cup final win against Racing 92, which forced him to give place-kicking duties to Nacewa in the second half, and he subsequently sat out last weekend’s semi-final win against Munster.

Leavy (hamstring) and Nacewa (calf) have shrugged off their knocks, while Scott Fardy gets the nod once more in the back row.

Leinster: R Kearney; J Larmour, G Ringrose, I Nacewa (capt), J Lowe; J Sexton, L McGrath; C Healy, S Cronin, T Furlong; D Toner, J Ryan; R Ruddock, D Leavy, J Conan.

Replacements: J Tracey, J McGrath, A Porter, S Fardy, J Murphy, N McCarthy, J Carberry, R O’Loughlin.

Scarlets: L Halfpenny; J McNicholl, S Williams, H Parkes, S Evans; R Patchell, G Davies; R Evans, K Owens (Capt), S Lee, L Rawlins, S Cummins, A Shingler, J Davies, T Beirne.

Replacements: R Elias, W Jones, W Kruger, D Bulbring, W Boyde, J Evans, D Jones, T Prydie.

Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)

Leinster v Scarlets, Guinness PRO14 final, Aviva Stadium Saturday 26th May, kick-off 18:00. Live on Sky Sports and S4C.


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