The Scarlets will be going all out for a result in their big derby challenge tomorrow night at the Liberty Stadium against old rivals the Ospreys with the added pressure of much-needed Magners League points at stake.
And determined to put right two narrow loses on the road in the past fortnight, the Scarlets are banking on a potent blend of experience and youth in their team to face the Ospreys with British Lions and Wales outside half Stephen Jones back at no10 to control the game and Scottish international Sean Lamont returning to the right wing.
Jones and Lamont, both rested for the past week, returned refreshed and energised to the Scarlets fold this week for the big derby encounter and to help boost the Scarlets team at a crucial time in the run-in to the end of the season with four big Magners League games left.
Scarlets Head Coach, Nigel Davies has opted for his younger scrum-half – former Ospreys academy and Neath rising star, Tavis Knoyle to start at the Liberty tomorrow night in what he described as "a very tough decision – but a good one to have". Martin Roberts will be on the bench.
British Lions and Wales hooker, Matthew Rees starts with Ken Owens on the bench and Rhys Priestland who has put in such strong performances at fly-half with the boot in recent weeks takes the Scarlets full-back position with Daniel Evans on the bench.
Billed as a highly-pressurised game for both sides, the Scarlets Head Coach says the Ospreys will be favourites and the Scarlets know they have a big challenge to face.
Nigel Davies said: "This is a huge game this weekend, it is a massive game for us and we really need to pick up these points desperately – but equally it’s a big game for the Ospreys. At this moment in time they are 10 points ahead of us but if we can get a result on Friday, they are in the mix with everyone else in terms of battling for this European spot. So it’s a massive game for them too.
"I think it is going to be a hugely pressurised game for both sides – the pressure will be on them to get the result because its at home and with the strength of their squad, they will be favourites – but there is also pressure on us to get points. So if ever you needed to add any more spice to this derby – certainly you’ve got it."
"But I am really comfortable that the team we’ve selected will go there and give them a game. We have experience back for this game and added to the youth and talent that we’ve got makes for a good mix in our team and I think we will be very competitive on Friday night."
Scarlets Captain David Lyons said: "We’ve had some big games which we should have and could have easily won, we were just lacking a bit of precision when it counted.
"There is pressure on but it’s been the same since the start of the second half of the season for us and I think for both sides there is a lot to prove after last weekend.
"We don’t know how they’ll react after losing to the Dragons but we know they are a different opposition at home, they don’t lose there too often, and with a number of quality players we are expecting them to be much improved. They have a good back-row that really complements the style the Ospreys play.
"We’ll be doing all we can to play rugby, it’s the way the Scarlets like to play and something we will always do in every game – also a lot will depend on the referee and how clinical we are at the breakdown.
"We can create as many opportunities as any side we come across – it’s just been executing them that’s been our issue. It’s good to have some more experience back and I think playing our game for 80 minutes comes down to having that experience. It’s often a key feature of young sides, that they can be a little up and down, so bringing some more senior guys back will hopefully make us more consistent for the whole 80 minutes."
Scarlets selection v Ospreys; Magners League Friday 2nd April 2010 (KO 1905) at The Liberty Stadium.
15 Rhys Priestland, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Regan King, 12 Jonathan Davies 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 1 Iestyn Thomas, 2 Matthew Rees, 3 Deacon Manu, 4 Lou Reed, 5 Dominic Day, 6 Rob McCusker, 7 Richie Pugh 8 David Lyons (capt).
Replacements: 16 Phil John, 17 Ken Owens, 18 Rhys Thomas 19 Damian Welch, 20 Josh Turnbull, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Daniel Evans
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