It’s back to RaboDirect PRO12 action on Friday night at Parc y Scarlets with a thrilling Welsh derby in store and the chance for the Scarlets to stretch their unbeaten run to eight – equaling the record set back in 2003/4 season.
The Scarlets take on the Newport Gwent Dragons at Parc y Scarlets kick off 7.05pm, with a team that mixes experience and some of the season’s brightest new talent including bringing back Adam Warren at centre alongside Gareth Maule who returns from injury.
Scottish international Sean Lamont starts on the wing with a return to the starting XV for Nick Reynolds, who has been back on form with Llanelli RFC following an ankle injury.
And new to the mix and on the bench for Friday night’s game is new Tongan wing signing Viliami Iongi who landed in Llanelli this week from Auckland and has fired in his first training sessions in the Scarlets shirt.
Stephen Jones, who appears in a Scarlets shirt for a staggering 300th time, is handed the captain’s armband after opting to play for his region this weekend instead of a Barbarians invitation – after the team’s impressive victory away from home over Northampton Saints in the Heineken Cup last weekend. Jones, 33, is the Scarlets record points scorer with 2781 points, Wales most capped player (104) and has notched up 80 European appearances to date in his career.
The Scarlets are without eight of their front line players who have been called up to Wales this week including Tavis Knoyle, Jon Davies, Matthew Rees, George North, Rhys Priestland, Liam Williams, Scott Williams and Rhodri Jones.
The Scarlets currently sitting in 8th in the league, will be seeking to push up the table against their near rivals in the league the Dragons. The Scarlets have won their last four games at Parc y Scarlets, and are undefeated in their last three encounters with fellow Welsh Regions.
Newport Gwent Dragons have begun their European Challenge Cup campaign with back to back wins over Prato and Perpignan, but in RaboDirect PRO12 play have won just one of their last four matches. Dragons have not won away from home in this competition since a visit to Aironi on 20 February. The Men from Gwent have won four of their last five encounters with fellow Welsh Regions.
Scarlets have won the last six clashes with Dragons in this tournament, but the Newport based outfit won 26-9 when the two sides met in the Anglo-Welsh Cup at Rodney Parade on 6 February.
Scarlets Head Coach Nigel Davies: “It was a great win for us last weekend and a big performance, but we’ve got a long way to go in the league and so this week has brought everything back into sharp focus. The positive thing is that the squad are now working hard with confidence, belief and momentum – but that’s all tempered with realism.
“This fixture gives us the opportunity to bring back some of the boys who started the season so well with us and have been waiting for their chances. It’s been good to see the boys pushing for places and depth building and this also links to the good work that’s being done by our Premiership clubs with the players. We work closely with the coaches and it’s a real strong point in this region.
“The Dragons will be keen to come here and make a statement and we’ve got to be ready for that, it’s a very competitive league and getting stronger. We know the Dragons are a good team and battle it out in the contact area – they’re a well-coached side and it will be a difficult game for us. But we have to come out and backing up our performance up at Northampton with a win.”
And there will be plenty of entertainment for the Scarlets and Dragons Supporters at the game off the pitch too with classical Brit Award winners Only Men Aloud performing before kick-off and student night extravaganza at half time with a Zorbing contest. Daioni Supporters Village opens at 5pm and the RAF will also support the evening’s events.
Scarlets team against Newport Gwent Dragons, Friday 25th November 2011, kick off 7.05pm at Parc y Scarlets: 15 Daniel Evans, 14 Nick Reynolds, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Gareth Maule, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Stephen Jones (capt), 9 Gareth Davies, 1 Phil John, 2 Ken Owens, 3 Rhys Thomas, 4 Sione Timani, 5 Damian Welch 6 Aaron Shingler, 7 Johnathan Edwards, 8 Ben Morgan.
Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Iestyn Thomas, Deacon Manu, Lou Reed, Mat Gilbert, Rhodri Williams, Dan Newton, Viliami Iongi.