Second place Scarlets will meet Magners League leaders Munster at Musgrave Park this Sunday for a top of the table battle as league action returns this weekend for the West Wales region.
After winning their last four games in a row, including two strong performances in the LV=Cup against Leeds at home and away at London Irish last weekend, the Scarlets will be looking to maintain their forward momentum.
The Scarlets have now won eight of their 11 matches this season with five home victories and three away wins – results that have given the coaching set-up at Parc Y Scarlets something positive to work with ahead of a big challenge out in Munster this weekend.
Without their internationals Stephen Jones, Matthew Rees and the new Wales wing star George North, the Scarlets field a strong team with the return of some of their strike players in the backline including Morgan Stoddart on the wing, former All Black centre Regan King and in-form outside half Rhys Priestland. International scrum-half Tavis Knoyle is released by Wales for game time with his region and travels to Munster with a place on the bench.
And after some strong performances by the Scarlets’ new breed in the LV=Cup, 23-year old Wales Commonwealth Sevens player Aaron Shingler gets a starting place in the back row along with Peter Edwards in the front row and young Ben Morgan who once again takes the no8 jersey – with David Lyons not passing his late fitness test for this fixture.
Scarlets starting XV v Munster, Musgrave Park, Sunday 21stNovember kick-off 5.35pm: Daniel Evans, Morgan Stoddart, Gareth Maule, Regan King, Lee Williams, Rhys Priestland, Martin Roberts, Iestyn Thomas, Ken Owens, Peter Edwards, Lou Reed, Dominic Day, Aaron Shingler, Johnathan Edwards (capt), Ben Morgan.
Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Phil John, Simon Gardner, Damian Welch, Jonny Fa’amatuainu, Tavis Knoyle, Dan Newton, Scott Williams.
Scarlets have won their last four games in all competitions since their defeat at Leicester in the EuropeanCup on 17 October. And the West Wales region have won three of their last four games against Irish teams. Munster have won their last three games in all competitions and top the Magners League table. The Munstermenhave won their last four home matches since Ospreys won 15-11 at Thomond Park on 24 April.
Munster have won their last nine games against Scarlets in all competitions sinceaScarlets 24-15 win at the oldStradey Park in the quarter-final of the European Cup on 30 March 2007.
Head Coach Nigel Davies knows his side faces a big task against the top ERC ranked club, former European champions and last season’s Magners League semi-finalists.
He said: “We know it’s going to be a difficult place to go, they’ve had a massive result this week beating Australia, but this will be no bigger game than last week and we came through that against a strong London Irish side.
“They’ll bring huge intensity, they fight on every inch of the field and they will look to disrupt our game. They will be hard and very physical and we will have to match them and front up, in order to be competitive in this game.
“However, that was something I was so encouraged by in our performance last week, we had a young team on the park last weekend and we out muscled a strong, experienced London Irish side.
“We’ve got a positive momentum at the moment and we’ve worked hard over the past 20 months to develop this group and build strength throughout this squad. As a result we now have a group of players who can more than ably step in when our more recognised stars are not available. That’s what you have to have to be successful in the league and it’s a focus for us this season.
“We have been evolving and changing, the most important thing we’re seeing is that the players are gaining confidence and belief. It is taking time and we’re not there yet but there has been a lot of commitment and endeavour going on behind the scenes. We have changed our coaching set-up, the way we look at the game and have changed our working week – so there are lots of factors at play.
“I am quite encouraged by the potential here for the future, it was a proud weekend for us as Scarlets last weekend to see Matthew, Stephen and George as leading figures in the Wales team and then followed our Sunday result – but there’s still a long way to go yet.