The Scarlets welcome Scottish side Edinburgh for a rare Thursday night of rugby at Parc y Scarlets as the West Wales region looks to regain its strong league form this season.
The Scarlets fell from the top four for the first time since the beginning of the season after their last minute defeat to Ulster at home last weekend. And with a quick turnaround for this next league encounter, the spirited home side quickly shook off their frustration to channel their focus on tomorrow night’s all-important fixture at Parc y Scarlets (Thurs 24th Feb KO 7.35pm).
It’s a crucial home tie for the 5th placed Scarlets, as a win on home soil against Edinburgh would put them right back into the mix and keep them in contention at the top end of the league.
And the hosts have been boosted by the return of their rising star wing George North, who gets his first start on the field in 10 weeks after a shoulder injury gained with Wales in the autumn series.
The return of the eager 18-year-old talent back onto Parc y Scarlets soil will be a welcome sight for Scarlets supporters.
The Scarlets faithful have watched in wonder as the young Scarlet, who only joined the senior squad this season, was thrust into the international spotlight after scoring a double try debut for Wales against South Africa in November.
Edinburgh currently sit 9th in the league on 28 points, the Scarlets are 5th on 42 points with only five points separating the teams placed two to six. The Scarlets won an historic encounter against Edinburgh up in Murrayfield in January – winning for the first time in seven years. The Scarlets have won both of their previous encounters against Scottish sides this season.
The Scarlets are without any of their eight senior internationals with no players released back their region this week as Rhys Priestland (outside half), Josh Turnbull (back row), Rob McCusker (back row) and Tavis Knoyle (scrum-half) are all travelling with Wales to Rome this weekend.
Centre turned wing Gareth Maule failed a late fitness test this morning (Weds) on a minor shoulder injury. Second row Jonny Fa’amatuainu also joins the injury list from last weekend as does hooker Emyr Phillips.
Scarlets starting XV v Edinburgh 24/02/11, Parc y Scarlets kick-off 1935:
Scarlets starting XV v Edinburgh 24/02/11, Parc y Scarlets kick-off 1935: Daniel Evans, George North, Regan King, Scott Williams, Joe Ajuwa, Dan Newton, Gareth Davies, Iestyn Thomas (capt), Rhys Lawrence, Rhys Thomas, Lou Reed, Damian Welch, Aaron Shingler, Johnathan Edwards, Ben Morgan.
Replacements: Craig Hawkins, Rhodri Jones, Simon Gardiner, Vernon Cooper, Richie Pugh, Martin Roberts, Owen Williams, Lee Rees.
Scarlets Head Coach Nigel Davies said: “The group has been really focused this week and the players are just eager to get back on the field and prove a few points – there’s been no sense of panic at all. Our set piece let us down last Friday and we’ve put that right now – the boys have simply worked hard on the key facets of our game and got their heads down. I was comfortable with the rest of our game and there has been a big focus on our defence and it was good to see us ‘nil’ a team in terms of tries last Friday in those weather conditions.
“In many ways, the quick turnaround this week has been good for us as the players get a chance to channel their frustrations from that bitter defeat and get back to where we need to be.
“Our Magners League campaign needs to get back on track at this fixture. Edinburgh are in a place where they will want to take positive momentum from a win away from home and we know how important points are to us right now in our league campaign.
“It’s very tight in the top six positions and the teams are keeping up the pressure on each other. We believe there is everything still to play for and that’s what makes the play-offs an exciting addition to the league.”