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Sunday, 21 October, 2018

No easy ride for double-chasing Leinster against Scarlets

Isa Nacewa can sign off in style in Dublin

Leinster demolished Scarlets 38-16 in the Champions Cup semi-final
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Leinster v Scarlets
Sky Sports Action, S4C & TG4, 6pm Saturday

The defending champions take on the team chasing a European and domestic double in the Pro14's grand finale, and for Scarlets fans making the trip to Dublin there are a host of positives to draw on - but a huge elephant in the room too.

Just over a year ago Scarlets headed into Leinster's lair in the playoffs and became the first team to win an away semi-final before their success over Munster in the final at the Aviva Stadium.

And they have shown this season that their achievements last term were no one-off as they again reached the final with an odds-against away win in the semis as well as reaching the last four in Europe for the first time in more than a decade.

That European adventure is the big sticking point though, as for all the good associations with Leinster and the Aviva, Scarlets were blown away by their Irish rivals in their Champions Cup semi-final meeting last month.

Leinster ran out 38-16 winners and Scarlets were barely able to land a glove on them, their sole try coming two minutes from the end.

Still, that degree of dominance led to Leinster going off as the strongest ever favourites in the final, giving up a double-figure handicap to Racing 92 of Paris.

But it was a nip-and-tuck match all the way before the favourites edged home by three points, and Leinster were also unable to cover a nine-point line in their semi against Munster last weekend, holding off a fightback to win by a point.

The handicap is in a similar ballpark this week with Leinster asked to give up ten or 11 and the Scarlets look worth backing to at least keep the score down to single figures.

For all that Leinster have a double in their sights and blew away Scarlets the last time the teams met, this is their third bruising contest in as many weeks while Scarlets had a week off for the European finals and were able to use their bench to the full in last week's comfortable semi-final win.

Leigh Halfpenny makes a welcome return to the Scarlets line-up, although Leinster are equally boosted by the recovery of fly-half Johnny Sexton, who missed the Munster clash after picking up an injury against Racing.

Scarlets were able to make their physicality count against Glasgow thanks to impressive performances from half-backs Gareth Davies and Rhys Patchell and centre Hadleigh Parkes making their presence felt down the inside channels, and Sexton could well find himself targeted on his comeback.

For all the cut and dash Leinster showed to reach the Champions Cup final, they will be all too aware they lost to Scarlets in the semis last season and to Connacht in the final the year before and are sure to be focused on substance rather then style in this final stretch of a gruelling marathon campaign.

One man who is looking to sign off in style is Leinster's Isa Nacewa, making his 185th and final appearance for the province. His devotion to the cause has been unquestioned over the years and the skipper is a value price to mark his farewell with a score.

Recommendations
Scarlets +11
2pts Evs bet365, BoyleSports
I Nacewa to score a try
1pt 11-4 BoyleSports, Hills, Sky Bet


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Leinster have a double in their sights and blew away Scarlets the last time thet met, but this is their third bruising contest in as many weeks
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