Scarlets are the form team says Leinster great
CHAMPIONS CUP SPOTLIGHT: Leinster great Denis Hickie believes Scarlets are the form team heading into Saturday's Champions Cup semifinal with Leinster in Dublin.
Leinster are the only team with a 100 percent record in this season's competition, while Scarlets defeated the Irish province 27-15 in Dublin on the way to the Pro12 title last season.
"I think it's going to be a fantastic game," said Hickie, a regular on the Leinster wing in the European Cup between 1996 and 2007.
"I think the Scarlets are the form team, certainly in Wales and maybe even in the Pro14. They've developed a really good brand of rugby under Wayne Pivac and Stephen Jones.
"They certainly aren't going to come to the Aviva with any fear. They came at us in the semifinal last year. They really put Leinster to the sword.
"I think there's a lot of respect for the strides they've made and the type of rugby they're playing. They're one of the form sides in Europe, so it's not surprising that they're getting to a semifinal, but it's their first semifinal in a long time.
"That will weigh on them, because it's added pressure for those players. They haven't found themselves in that position for a while, but I always think that, with Welsh teams, they either play with a lot of confidence or not enough and this is a side that plays with a lot of confidence. And they're going to be looking ahead to that fixture thinking 'This is a game that we can win'.
"That's why it's so intriguing from a Leinster perspective. I think Leinster will have to be at their absolute best to win."
The three-time European Cup winners have already beaten Scarlets this season - 20-13 at the RDS Arena in the Pro14 in February - but were held 10-10 in Wales last month.
"I think the Leinster side at the moment are going really well," Hickie commented. "They've had retirements from a couple of key players, but I think the stand-out thing is the strength of their squad.
"They've a huge amount of homegrown players and I think that for any club is key. That clearly shows that they have a system that produces players and I think, as ever, they've been judicious in their signing of foreign players.
"I think they have a very good mix - James Lowe's been a great signing on the wing and obviously Scott Fardy's been a key signing as well - and I think having that mix between homegrown and foreign players has certainly been working for them
"But again they have players in key positions that any team would want playing there - Johnny Sexton is obviously critical, Tadhg Furlong is fantastic and I think there's strength in particular in the back row, an area where you get a lot of attrition and you don't have [the same] players available every week.
"Putting themselves in a position where they have such a strong squad means they can sustain the year and then when the big games come around, they have enough top-quality players to get them through."