Thursday 26 April 2018

Browne desperate to nail down starting spot

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

No 4 NEEDED. Only gnarled, grizzled type need apply, a degree in the dark arts necessary, grunt is the main part of the job description. References from the English Premiership and the French Top 14 not a requirement, but can't but help.

When Nathan Hines returned to France after helping Leinster to the Heineken Cup, the province needed a like-for-like replacement.

Not only did they get one, but in Damian Browne, Joe Schmidt and Co landed a potential Irish international who has spent seven years in the engine-room in the world's most demanding schools of hard knocks.

At 31, the Galway native wanted to come home and play top-class rugby.

He was out of sight and out of mind at Northampton and Brive, but he is now back on the old sod and hoping to make an impact.

He is also set on dispelling some myths about French rugby in doing so.

"The French league is a lot more attritional, a lot more forward-based and it's surprisingly slower," he explained.

"There's a myth that it's all 'jouer, jouer, jouer' (play, play, play), but if you take the average French game it's very much a dog-fight up front, a lot of pick-and- goes, mauls and scrum-time.

"There's a lot more rugby played here in the Pro12.

"When you're there, you're not really thinking about things like international call-ups, you're just doing your job, concentrating on the process. I have no regrets, I enjoyed my time in England and France. I improved and now I'm a better player."

Browne has come into the Leinster set-up at a time when Schmidt is without a large number of his players.

Fourteen of his squad are at the World Cup with Ireland, and a host are out injured, meaning the likes of 20-year-old Jordi Murphy and new Kiwi prop Nathan White make their first starts for the province against the Scarlets, in the Welsh side's 5,000th game.

Scarlets are feeling the effects of World Cup call-ups themselves and, after losing on Irish soil the past two weekends, are looking to get back to winning ways at home.

Munster hammered them 35-12 in Cork last week, but with a large crowd expected to Llanelli, Leinster will need a big display from their experienced players to get a result.

Verdict: Home win

SCARLETS -- D Ford; L Williams, N Reynolds, G Maule, A Fenby; D Newton, R Tipuna; I Thomas (capt), E Phillps, R Thomas; A Shingler, D Day; R McCusker, J Edwards, B Morgan. Reps: C Hawkins, P John, D Welch, R Pugh, G Davies, A Thomas, L Williams.

LEINSTER -- I Nacewa; F Carr, E O'Malley, L Fitzgerald, D Kearney; I Madigan, C Willis; H van der Merwe, R Strauss, N White; D Browne, D Toner; R Ruddock (capt), J Murphy, L Auva'a. Reps: J Harris-Wright, J McGrath, J Hagan, M Flanagan, C Ruddock, J Cooney, B Macken, D Hudson.

REF -- J Lacey (IRFU).

Scarlets v Leinster

Live TG4, 6.30

Irish Independent

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