The Scarlets will welcome back a host of their international players for a crucial home fixture against Benetton Treviso at Parc y Scarlets this Sunday (kick-off 5.35pm, Magners League).
And the region will field an All Wales star line-up for their special Ladies Day fixture at Parc y Scarlets with all starting XV born and bred in Wales with no8 Ben Morgan soon to be a Welsh qualified player.
Wales’ First Minister Carwyn Jones, a former Aberystwyth University student will be one of the special guests at this fixture for his first visit to the impressive Parc y Scarlets. And in tribute to the growing number of female Scarlets supporters, the players will abandoning their traditional red Scarlets socks for pink and white hooped socks – which will be auctioned to supporters at a later date in aid of the Ray Gravell and Friends Charitable Trust.
Head Coach Nigel Davies said his returning international players had given a real boost to training and were eager to get back on the field in the Scarlets shirt for Sunday’s home game.
Davies said: “It’s great to see these boys so energised, positive and fired-up for these big games now in the Magners League – there was a real buzz in training today (Thurs) and I’m expecting a lot from them now in the run-in to the end of the season.
“What’s good is the hunger they obviously have at this stage of the season to be back with us, and we’re able to field one of the strongest and most exciting backlines we’ve probably had all season this weekend.
“It should be a great night for our supporters, and if the weather stays as it is, a good night to suit our style of rugby.”
Davies has opted for a balance of some of the region’s top international performers with a core of strong players who have shone and held the fort during the Six Nations in the last batch of Scarlets games.
These include young Carmarthenshire scrum-half talent Gareth Davies (21) and in-form centre Gareth Maule who get their places in the starting line-up after putting in strong performances in recent games.
Scarlets starting XV v Benetton Treviso (Sunday 27th March 2011, kick-off 5.35pm ) Rhys Priestland, George North, Gareth Maule, Jon Davies, Morgan Stoddart, Stephen Jones (capt), Gareth Davies, Iestyn Thomas, Rhys Lawrence, Rhys Thomas, Lou Reed, Aaron Shingler, Rob McCusker, Johnathan Edwards, Ben Morgan.
Replacements Bench: Emyr Phillips, Rhodri Jones, Peter Edwards, Damian Welch, Josh Turnbull, Tavis Knoyle, Regan King, Scott Williams.
Davies added: “Our opponents Treviso are a competent team and we have a point to prove here after getting beaten by them first game out in the league back in September; they bring a dominant set-piece and they have plenty of quality within their ranks as they’ve shown this season and it’s only a matter of time before they gel more and become increasingly competitive in seasons to come.
“Our next two games will have a huge bearing on our goal to reach the play-offs. It’s a big task ahead of us and we know we will have to perform at the top of our game in these next five fixtures. We travel to Ulster next week which will be a massive game for us in our ambitions. We’ll then host league leaders Munster on the 14th of April and let’s hope we’ll see a packed and noisy home crowd getting behind the boys for such a great fixture.”
Returning Scarlets international centre Jon Davies said it was great to be back at home at Parc y Scarlets for their first training session ahead of the weekend today (Thursday).
“The boys were on really good form today, it’s great to come back, training went really well, there’s lots of energy around and we’re all really looking forward to this game on Sunday. We need to regain some momentum in the league, it’s just exciting to be back.
“The pressure with the internationals has been great experience but there’s pressure with the regions now as well. Coming back, it’s just good to be back in the place you’re day in day out so it’s a very comfortable atmosphere amongst the boys – they’re a great group to be around. There’s a lot of things I’ll take from being with Wales which hopefully I’ll bring back here to build myself as a better player to help the Scarlets.
“It’s set up quite nicely in the league now – hopefully it could all come down to that final game against the Blues here at Parc y Scarlets in May – which will be a terrific occasion. We were in contention at the start of the year and then just slipped up really so it’s key now that we get that momentum back. We’re all looking forward to it.”
Scarlets have met their Italian opponents on three occasions this season, with Treviso victorious in the Magners League in the opening game of the league but the Scarlets gaining revenge in both European Cup encounters. Scarlets have won their last four games against Italian opponents this season. Treviso have had four straight defeats in the Magners League since their 19-18 victory over Munster on the 13th of Feb.
The Scarlets have won nine of their Magners League fixtures this season, drawn one and lost seven. The Scarlets sit in sixth position on 46 points.