The Scarlets travel to 11th placed Benetton Treviso as the competition leaders for their fifth RaboDirect PRO12 fixture and with a hearty appetite to push forward their positive league start this season.
Putting right the ills of last weekend’s disappointing derby defeat against the Ospreys after a 100% record in their opening three rounds, is a big motivation for the Scarlets side.
And the West Wales side will welcome the chance to make amends against a very physical and forwards dominated side in Treviso on Saturday night at Stadio Monigo (kick off 7.05pm).
Simon Easterby, Scarlets Head Coach said: “We clearly weren’t good enough last weekend and the players knew across the board when they came into work on Monday. But we’ve parked that frustration and move on and the great thing about the league is that just a few days later you have the chance to put things right and we’ve been working hard on our preparations and challenge against Treviso.”
Benetton Treviso have won just one of their last six RaboDirect PRO12 encounters: 12-6 over Ospreys at Stadio Monigo on the opening day of the new season. Treviso have won two of their last three games against the Welsh regions. They currently sit in 11th out the 12 clubs with their Italian colleagues Zebre in 12th.
The Scarlets’ four game winning run may have ended last Friday, however the Scarlets will take a boost from the fact they have won their last three away games. They last won four in a row on the road in the tournament in May 2004.
Each side won its respective home game when the two teams met last season. Treviso have proved tricky opposition for the Scarlets away with the West Wales only previous win in Treviso coming during the pool games in the 2010/11 European Cup.
The Scarlets make six personnel changes to the starting line-up for Treviso from last week, with a number of players swapping positions to alter the structure of the starting XV from last weekend.
The Scarlets’ versatile and talented up and coming young back Jordan Williams, gets a start at full-back after his impressive form away in Connacht which won him a man of the match performance on his league debut. Liam Williams moves to the wing.
Last year’s Scarlets vice-captain Gareth Maule comes into the centre partnership with Jon Davies who switches to inside centre. Rhys Priestland commands the game at outside half with Gareth Davies, who achieved his 50th appearance for the region last week, getting his opportunity at scrum-half. Tavis Knoyle moves to the bench.
Matthew Rees starts at hooker and Sione Timani partners with George Earle in the second row. Experienced Scarlets back-rower Johnathan Edwards comes back into the starting line-up with Josh Turnbull moving to six and captain
Rob McCusker at number eight. The Scarlets new fleet-footed wing signing, Kristain Phillips returns from injury to the bench.
Scarlets team v Benetton Treviso Saturday 29th September 2012, Stadio Monigo kick-off 7.05pm: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Jon Davies, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 1 Phil John, 2 Matthew Rees, 3 Deacon Manu, 4 Sione Timani, 5 George Earle, 6 Josh Turnbull, 7 Johnathan Edwards, 8 Rob McCusker (capt).
Replacements: Ken Owens, Peter Edwards, Samson Lee, Aaron Shingler, Kieran Murphy, Tavis Knoyle, Adam Warren, Kristian Phillips.
Head Coach Simon Easterby said: “There are some changes to ensure we give game time to as many of the squad as we can before Europe and it takes into account the amount of rugby some of our players have already put in; so George (North) and Scott (Williams) get some time off the field this weekend.
“It’s great to see young talent like Jordan Williams stepping up; he’s impressed us and he has great versatility as a player which we want to encourage. He’s still developing and we need to be mindful of that but we also know he has the ability do things that not many players can.
“This region has consistently invested in its younger players and given opportunities with the philosophy that if you’re good enough you’re old enough.”
Easterby expects a tough, physical challenge on Saturday night but says that’s just what his team want and need.
He said: “Playing at home, Treviso will have the ability to confront you in the pack and we are disappointed with the way we dealt with the Ospreys and that’s been a big part of our focus this week and our forwards want to rectify some of the mistakes of last weekend.
“With three wins out of four we’re in a good position and we know we’ve played some good rugby in our opening games. We were stopped from doing that last weekend and we’re not going to let that happen again. We have another big derby game back at home next week against the Dragons – then it’s Europe, so there’s plenty of focus and drive to regain lost ground in this group.”
Outside half Aled Thomas is left out because of minor groin injury picked up in training this week. Back three international, Morgan Stoddart will be in full training and available for selection next week.