The Scarlets will look to push forward from their strong Christmas performances in the RaboDirect PRO12 competition as they face Glasgow Warriors in a crucial top six fixture.
The Scarlets have recorded only one loss in their last seven RaboDirect PRO12 contests with recent wins in both their derby fixtures five wins out of six at home in the tournament this season – their only home defeat in the tournament to Leinster (10-15) in September.
The Scarlets did the double on Glasgow last season and have faired well against Scottish clubs winning their last five matches against their opponents across the Northern border.
But the home side knows it faces strong opposition with Glasgow unbeaten in their last four fixtures against Welsh opponents and strong performances this season that sees them sit in third position in the league on 34 points – with the Scarlets in 6th on 30 points.
The Scarlets field a strong and attacking back line with George North and Scottish international Sean Lamont on the wing, Jon Davies and Scott Williams in centre partnership with Rhys Priestland at outside half and Gareth Davies at scrum-half.
Hooker Matthew Rees leads his Scarlets side with Iestyn Thomas returning to the front row and Deacon Manu starting at tighthead with plenty of power on the bench with replacement forwards Ken Owens, Rhys Thomas, Josh Turnbull, Aaron Shingler and Rhodri Jones.
Scarlets Head of Rugby Nigel Davies said: “We said before Christmas that the trio of games against the Ospreys, Dragons and Glasgow were crucial in terms of our league position and aspirations to challenge for a play-off place. It’s a massive game for us this weekend to stay in contention and good to see that we’ll have another big home crowd to support us and spur the boys on.
“Our two team performances over the festive season produced competitive wins against the Ospreys and Dragons which was a very positive statement from both a Scarlets and national perspective showing the commitment to develop Welsh talent.
“The selections and performances showed that we have strength in depth building here and there’s some fierce competition now to get and hold onto the Scarlets shirt across the 15.”
“Glasgow have really progressed this season, they are a well-coached side and play a good brand of rugby and certainly deserve the success they’ve had so far.”
Scarlets and Scotland international wing Sean Lamont, is looking forward to the big weekend and facing the side he will join back home next season and where his brother Rory now plays – although the chance of facing his brother on the pitch is once again missed with Rory Lamont on the sidelines through injury.
Lamont said: “It should be a great game, both sides play an expansive game and Glasgow are one of the contenders for play-offs this season, so its going to be a key battle and a lot to play for in this game.
“They’ve been going well, they have a wide game, are good in the line-out with some big name players in their side. We’ve just got to play to our strengths and make those hits. We want to get the year off to a good start at Parc y Scarlets and have worked hard and done well over Christmas – so we want to back that up and just need to keep climbing the ladder.
“We’ve got another major game on the horizon the following weekend with our Heineken Cup home fixture against Saints – so we need to keep the winning habit and hopefully with another great, vocal home crowd behind us.”
Sean Lamont, who returns home and joins Glasgow Warriors next season at the end of his Scarlets contract added: “I’ve really settled down here and been made to feel at home from the very start with the Scarlets – the club has helped me with my career enormously and the supporters have been great. Being part of the Scarlets has definetly reinvigorated me as a player.”
Following on from two five-figure crowds in their last home fixtures with a sell-out crowd of 14,800 against the Ospreys on Boxing Day; ‘Heart and Soul Rugby Country’ has sold more than 9,000 tickets for their Glasgow contest on Saturday evening (kick-off 6.15pm) and opened up another stand for sales yesterday for what promises to be great night’s rugby.
The Scarlets average crowd is 8,738 this season and the region has seen a 7% increase in average attendances this season.
Scarlets team agains Glasgow Warriors, Saturday 7th January 2012, kick off 6.15pm at Parc y Scarlets: 15 Dan Newton, 14 George North, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 1 Iestyn Thomas, 2 Matthew Rees, 3 Deacon Manu, 4 Lou Reed, 5 Dominic Day, 6 Rob McCusker, 7 Johnathan Edwards, 8 Ben Morgan.
Replacements: Ken Owens, Rhodri Jones, Rhys Thomas, Josh Turnbull, Aaron Shingler, Rhodri Williams, Stephen Jones, Viliame Iongi.
SCARLETS HOME FIXTURE: Scarlets V Northampton Saints in the Heineken Cup: Saturday 14th January 2012 kick-off 1.30pm.