Scarlets Head Coach Nigel Davies has said his side must be more clinical on Friday evening in a must win Magners League match at Parc y Scarlets against Ulster (5th March,1905 KO).
The Scarlets have three Wales internationals back on duty at Parc y Scarlets in the shape of centre Jonathan Davies, Ken Owens and Matthew Rees. Scrum half Martin Roberts has returned to the Scarlets for the rest of the Six Nations and starts on the bench this week.
After a narrow defeat at Leinster last week, the Scarlets need to gain some valuable Magners League points from their last seven games in the competition and boost their bid to climb the table and secure a place in Europe next season. With Ulster sixth in the Magners Table with five wins in the competition, to the Scarlets three, the home side know that this game is crucial to move them up the ranks.
And some fresh young talent will be hoping to show flashes of inspiration with the likes of 19 year-old scrum half Tavis Knoyle, 20-year-old full-back Dan Newton as well as strong and spirited winger Joe Ajuwa (26, former clubs London Welsh, Richmond), who has been playing for Llandovery RFC – all starting for the Scarlets on Friday night.
Regan King starts in his third game for the region after returning from a long-term hamstring injury along with Jon Davies at centre – who is released from training with Wales.
Rhys Priestland takes the commanding role at fly-half with a mix of experience and youth in the forwards including a start for Newcastle Emyln’s Josh Turnbull at no6 and joined by Richie Pugh who is back at flanker after an absence from the starting line-up for a few weeks.
Lions and Wales star hooker Matthew Rees returns from injury and is on the bench with Ken Owens starting at hooker.
Scarlets Head Coach, Nigel Davies said: "Of course we are under no allusions what a hugely important game this one is, we are not hiding from it. We have just got to win this game.
"We were frustrated with the result out in Leinster – not in the manner of our performance which was positive, but that we let a game slip through our hands that we were in control of and had plenty of opportunities to finish off.
"We have to move forward within this transition period, they’re a young group but we must learn lessons from these matches and improve.
"There is plenty about this squad, good structure, some very good individuals and there is great intent and effort and if we take our opportunities we will produce the results. It’s about managing key moments and better communication on the pitch."
Davies added that competition for places, exemplified by having both Matthew Rees and Ken Owens as options at hooker, is something which the coaching set-up will look to create throughout the squad.
"We are striving to make sure we have that competition right throughout the squad and it is getting better. To have two players like Ken and Matthew who offer slightly different games, is great for us. Matthew has a lot of experience, a real physical edge about him and he’s exceptionally good in the set piece.
"And we have Ken who can come on to really energise and bring a great ball carrying game onto the field with him. Ken’s work rate, energy and natural power to ball carry is superb and his line-out work and his scrum game is improving."
On the Scarlets opponents, Davies said: "Ulster have been doing very well, I’ve been impressed with their performances, they started slowly in the Magners but have really picked up their game recently and they have some good players in key positions – with a couple of good wingers.
"They have been rebuilding for a couple of years ago and it looks likes they have a good academy and good foundations to build off – they are very ambitious moving forward as their recruitment drive is starting to show."
The Scarlets squad is without wingers Morgan Stoddart (groin injury – six weeks) and Lee Williams who has a fractured eye socket and will be out for four weeks, centre Rob Higgitt (bicep tear) and forward Damian Welch (minor ankle injury). Other Scarlets on the long-term injury list include senior internationals Simon Easterby, Dafydd Jones and captain Mark Jones.
Scarlets selection v Ulster; Magners League 5th March 2010 (KO 1905) at Parc y Scarlets
15 Dan Newton, 14 Joe Ajuwa, 13 Regan King, 12 Jonathan Davies 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 1 Iestyn Thomas, 2 Ken Owens, 3 Deacon Manu, 4 Lou Reed, 5 Dominic Day, 6 Josh Turnbull, 7 Richie Pugh 8 David Lyons (capt).
Replacements: 16 Phil John, 17 Matthew Rees, 18 Rob McCusker, 19 Johnathan Edwards, 20 Martin Roberts, 21 Daniel Evans, 22 Gareth Maule