The Scarlets travel to Ravenhill on Friday night for their round 10 RaboDirect PRO12 fixture against Ulster in a bid to push further up the competition table.
The Scarlets unbeaten run in all competitions now stands at eight – a regional rugby record for the Scarlets squad.
The Scarlets were the biggest movers in the league last weekend following their 22-12 win over Welsh rivals Newport Gwent Dragons and now sit in sixth. Ulster have won one of their last six RaboDirect PRO12 encounters and at home will be looking to improve on their league form.
The Scarlets are without eight of their key international players who are committed to the Wales camp for an international friendly against Australia on Saturday afternoon.
The Scarlets took the spoils 24-17 in the first round battle this season against Ulster at home at Parc y Scarlets at the end of October with their last victory at Ravenhill in September 2008, winning 16-9.
With a top-billing European fixture next weekend when the Scarlets take on Munster in the Heineken Cup at Parc y Scarlets, Head Coach Nigel Davies said that this game was an opportunity for a number of the Scarlets squad to get their hands on the shirt for next weekend.
The Scarlets Head of Rugby, Nigel Davies said: “We know that Ulster will be at full strength and some may say that without our internationals it’s more of a challenge – but all our players are keen to wear the shirt at the moment.
There’s a huge game against Munster on the horizon, so they’ll want to take their opportunities in a bid to get selected for such a big fixture for the club.
“We have a few new Scarlets in our side on Friday night, but we’re also strong on experience and ability and we go to Ulster on the back of a good run and with a lot of energy, enthusiasm and forward momentum. It is a very competitive environment at Parc y Scarlets the moment and that creates a positive drive and ambition throughout the squad.
“Our World Cup players add spice and x-factor and raise the bar in terms of performance and training – but a lot of the hard work has been done week-in, week-out by the wider group of Scarlets that we have invested in and developed and credit should go to them. We have a lot of young players coming through who have learnt on their feet and starting making big in-roads for us.
“We’ve got a heavy and intense period of rugby ahead of us, with the back-to-backs in Europe then a derby against the Ospreys on Boxing Day, so we are managing our squad too for the period ahead.”
Davies said his squad would have to take another ‘pragmatic’ approach to the game out in Ulster in probable wet and windy conditions.
He said: “One of the positives for us this season has been our game without the ball which has gone up a couple of notches and Simon Easterby, our defense coach has done some superb work for us. We are now scoring from turnovers, seen last weekend and against Northampton. We know we can play rugby as well as any side when the time and occasion is right, but equally we're becoming more pragmatic in our approach to games and our kicking game has been good in our last couple of performances.
“We know Ulster will be strong and need a big performance, our results against them last season had a big bearing on us missing out on a final four spot so we must take the game to them. It should be a good contest.”
Stephen Jones, who appeared in a Scarlets shirt for a staggering 300th time last weekend, will lead his Scarlets team after a strong performance as skipper last weekend against the Dragons.
True to the region's commitment to bring through new Welsh talent, opportunities are handed to a number of emerging Scarlets. New to the Scarlets line-up are two Llanelli RFC players who have been impressing in the Premiership; lock Adam Powell (27), born in Swansea and brought up in Llanelli who gets his second Scarlets appearance and young 19-year-old wing from Bangor, Iolo Evans who has been part of the Scarlets Academy and played Scarlets U18 rugby.
New Tongan wing signing Viliami Iongi who landed in Llanelli last week from Auckland has been firing in his first training sessions in the Scarlets shirt and gets a start on the wing.
The back row is boosted with the return of Wales international Rob McCusker alongside two of the new breed of Scarlets talent, Mat Gilbert and Kieran Murphy.
Scarlets team against Ulster Friday 2nd December 2011, Ravenhill kick off 7.05pm: 15 Daniel Evans, 14 Viliami Iongi, 13 Nick Reynolds, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Stephen Jones (capt), 9 Gareth Davies, 1 Phil John, 2 Ken Owens, 3 Deacon Manu, 4 Lou Reed, 5 Adam Powell 6 Mat Gilbert, 7 Rob McCusker, 8 Kieran Murphy
Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Iestyn Thomas, Simon Gardiner, Damian Welch, Johnathan Edwards, Rhodri Williams, Daniel Newton, Iolo Evans.