Scarlets and Wales centre Jon Davies, a shining example of the success of the Scarlets commitment to develop rugby talent from within their region, is handed the honour of captaining his side for the first time against Aironi this weekend.
Davies, who started his junior rugby at Whitland RFC in Carmarthenshire before accelerating his rugby career through the Scarlets Academy and then into the senior squad, has played all his club rugby in the Scarlets region.
The gifted and powerful centre is one of a number of talented rising Scarlets who have risen through the ranks through opportunity within the Scarlets set-up to gain international honours – with Scarlets players making up the mainstay of Wales national squad backline.
Wales centre Jonathan Davies, who turned 24 last week, recently signed a two-year contract extension keeping him at the Scarlets until the end of the 2013-2014 season.
He said he was very honoured to be handed the captaincy for the first time: "The region has done a lot to support my rugby career to date and it's where I feel at home as a player and where I feel I am best placed to further my ambitions both at regional and international level.
"There's great team ethic, the Scarlets boys all work hard for each other and we're a close-knit group because so many of us have come through the ranks together from within the region.
"There's a strong and ambitious spirit in this team and we know what it means to wear the Scarlets shirt, given our great heritage and our style and brand of rugby suits me as a player.”
With just three games left in the RaboDirect PRO12 league for the Scarlets before the play-offs it’s a trip out onto Italian soil against Aironi on Sunday afternoon 15th April kick off 3.05pm (local time) at Stadio Zaffanella. With every game until the end of the season is now a “must win” scenario for the top 6 the teams in the RaboDirect PRO12, it will be nail-biting final run.
With the Scarlets sitting in 6th on 51 points, Ulster on 55 points in 5th and Glasgow in 4th on 56 points and Munster in third on 56 – there are just four points separate third to sixth placed teams with a number of the top six having to play each other in the final rounds.
Aironi have won just one of their last six RaboDirect PRO12 games: 21-17 at home to Munster on 11 March. Aironi have won four home games in Viadana this season.
Scarlets have won three of their last four games in the PRO12. Scarlets only defeat to an Italian opponent since September 2010 was 10-20 in Treviso on 1 October 2011. Scarlets have won all three previous encounters with Aironi.
Scarlets Head Coach Nigel Davies said: “We know this is a must-win game for us out in Italy and the boys have been frustrated after their performance in Brive last weekend in the quarter-final. This is a time for them to get some momentum back and we know we are still in with a fighting chance with our league campaign. We have two great home fixtures ahead in our run in back at Parc y Scarlets with Munster next Saturday and then the Cardiff Blues (5th May) which will both be great occasions for the side and our supporters to be part of.
“Our team selection for Aironi in many ways reflects the new generation of Scarlets who are stepping up and being handed responsibility and will take rugby forward for the Scarlets into next season.
“We have been very impressed with Jon Davies’ approach and maturity this season and it his a chance for him to stamp his mark on the way the team approaches this game and good to see him wanting to take responsibility and direction.
“There is some real competition now within this group of players for places and that’s shown by Ken Owens getting his chance at hooker – after showing some great form at the weekend and he now deserves his chance.”
Dom Day comes back into the second row with Aaron Shingler who returns from a toe injury and in an unchanged back row Josh Turnbull is named as vice-captain. Young Wales and Scarlets Prop Rhodri Jones moves from loosehead Prop last weekend to give him an opportunity at tighthead furthering his development and experience as a key front row player for the future.
Scarlets team: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Nick Reynolds, 12 Jon Davies (capt), 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 1 Phil John, 2 Ken Owens, 3 Rhodri Jones, 4 Aaron Shingler, 5 Dominic Day, 6 Josh Turnbull, 7 Johnathan Edwards, 8 Ben Morgan.
Replacements: Matthew Rees, Peter Edwards, Simon Gardiner, Mat Gilbert, Kieran Murphy, Rhodri Williams, Stephen Jones, Viliame Iongi.
Those unavailable for selection through injury: Centre Gareth Maule sustained a broken finger last weekend against Brive and will be out for a minimum of six weeks. Scott Williams, centre (shoulder) will be tested for fitness next week. Scrum-half Tavis Knoyle will be playing his first game back against Llanelli RFC this weekend after his shoulder operation. Lou Reed, second row is out and in rehab with a knee injury, Sioni Timani (second row) is out with a knee injury, Prop Deacon Manu is not fit after suffering a concussion two weeks ago and wing George North is rested with a minor groin strain and will be tested for fitness next week before Munster.