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Suffocate the Scarlets

The Scarlets v Leinster

Parc Y Scarlets, today 1.35

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It is clear that Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has taken the same path he took when Clermont Auvergne came to Dublin town in the autumn of 2010.

Back then, the Massif Central club had won the French title for the first time since Napoleon was a nipper. Their new found championship confidence and their spending power made them a fierce challenge for anyone.

Coach Vern Cotter had any number of weapons from pint-sized, loose-head Thomas Domingo to full-back Anthony Floch.

They also brought dangerman Napolioni Nalaga to terrorise Leinster down the right flank.

The 6'3" Fijian international wing was a tall order for any defender. In Schmidt's eyes, there was only one man for the job -- Fergus McFadden.

Now, The Scarlets have picked George North as their right wing for this afternoon's crucial Heineken Cup encounter at Parc Y Scarlets where he looks set to go toe-to-toe with Isa Nacewa.

But, North could start on the other side of the pitch where he would be confronted by McFadden, an abrasive character known for his snap into contact.

"I think his versatility is an asset to him and sometimes it is a little bit of a liability for him," remarked Schmidt.

"He will do whatever is best for the team. His flexibility and willingness to play wherever for the team makes him a real asset.

"I thought Fergus did well for us last year and started a number of matches for us at 12 and 13. He is the sort of guy you could put in at loose forward.

"He is that combative and hungry to get his hands on the ball or get his hands on the guy who has got the ball."


McFadden will need to be at his tigerish best to subdue the Scarlets' outstanding floating winger North in what appears to be another man-marking assignment.

The Scarlets blew Leinster away on the first day of the PRO12 League and stitched two more wins onto the end of it to lead the way after three rounds.

Since then, they fell to the Ospreys and Benetton Treviso, just about managed the Dragons in one of those fire-fighting Welsh derbies before fading away to Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Cup on Saturday.

"I just think the margins are so fine week-to-week. I know in Treviso they led 20-5, or around about that, and got run over right at the end by a very late shot at goal. When they have lost, it hasn't been by much," said Schmidt.

"I'd even say last week they led 13-6. It was 13-all after Morgan Stoddard had already been binned for 10 minutes. They were only just behind at half-time at 13-16.

"What happened in the second-half, they actually constructed some really good phases of play. The fine margins between winning and losing, between getting the score and not getting the score are very, very narrow.

"They are the sort of team that can score a lot of points very quickly. They have a lot of game-breakers and they feed off each other very well.

"You've got to stop their momentum. A few times, their momentum has ebbed and flowed. It has ebbed to a degree that they haven't been able to get the points on the scoreboard that they were getting earlier in the season.

"Certainly, the 45 points they got against us was more flow than ebb," highlighted Schmidt.

Leinster have to turn back that tide of possession and points.

Scarlets: L Williams; G North, G Maule, S Williams, A Fenby; R Priestland, T Knoyle; P John, M Rees, S Lee, G Earle, J Snyman, A Shingler, J Turnbull, R McCusker (capt).

Leinster: I Madigan; F McFadden, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, I Nacewa; J Sexton, E Reddan; C Healy, S Cronin, M Ross, L Cullen (capt), D Browne, K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip.