Second-placed Scarlets turn their attention back to the RaboDirect PRO12 on Friday night with a crucial game in Murrayfield to help secure their position at the top of the league.
Keen to put the disappointment of their last two weekends in the Heineken Cup firmly behind them, the Scarlets travel to Edinburgh intent on backing up their strong start to their Celtic campaign.
A good result away from home in Scotland followed by Italians Zebre at Parc y Scarlets next weekend would keep the Scarlets in the race for the top four play-off spots – as well as being a positive send-off to their 12 Scarlets internationals who join Wales at the weekend.
And the West Wales side will be looking to some fresh faces in their starting line-up to take their opportunities well, as an intense and brutally physical few weeks on the field has taken its toll on the Scarlets’ injury list.
A total of 14 players from the Scarlets squad are unavailable for selection for Edinburgh. The region is also still awaiting the arrival of their South African Prop Jacobie Adriaanse, who is expected to arrive at Parc y Scarlets on November 1st having completed his Currie Cup campaign with former South African Super side, Lions.
Centres Jonathan Davies and Gareth Maule are both unavailable, so Nick Reynolds comes into the centre alongside Wales international Scott Williams. Argentinian international Tomás Vallejos gets his first start in a Scarlets jersey and Aled Thomas is handed the pivotal role at outside half with Rhys Priestland on the bench. New signing from the Ospreys Gareth Owen, who has returned from injury, gets his first opportunity for the Scarlets on the bench.
Edinburgh Rugby have now lost five successive matches in all competitions, whilst their only win at Murrayfield this season came against Zebre on 14 September. The Welshmen have already won in Scotland this season: 18-13 at Glasgow on 7 September. Each team won its respective home game when the two sides met last season, whilst Scarlets’ only win at Murrayfield in nine visits so far came on 8 January 2011.
Simon Easterby Head Coach of the Scarlets said: “This is an important game for us and with a limited turnaround this week, our focus has been on our game and getting some of the execution and decision-making issues we faced last weekend put right. We will be better at the things in our control and put pressure on Edinburgh.
“We just can’t let the last two results affect the strong start we’ve made in the league and for us the negatives from those two fixtures are a motivating factor for us to kick-on now.
“It’s certainly not doom and gloom, we have plenty of positives to focus on – our execution could have been better last weekend but that’s also partly about playing one of the best sides in the Europe for the last three years.
“The players are all very focused on this game of us and have an opportunity to go to Edinburgh and back up the hard work and commitment we’ve already given to our league campaign.
“There is a realisation for everyone that we played against the European champions and semi finalists over the past fortnight and for 40 minutes in both those games we competed well against Clermont and Leinster.
“We have been slightly handicapped by not being fully loaded in terms of our squad earlier this season which has affected our preparations for these two rounds.”
Easterby says that his team are fully aware that Edinburgh will want to turn their fortunes around starting with a home win on Friday night.
He said: “Edinburgh will see every game now as an opportunity to turn around and it will be no different against us; we’ve had couple of good results up there in the last couple of years after a few years of not traveling well in Scotland.”
Scarlets team v Edinburgh Friday 26th October 2012, Murrayfield kick-off 7.35pm:
15 Liam Williams
14 George North
13 Nick Reynolds
12 Scott Williams
11 Morgan Stoddart
10 Aled Thomas
9 Gareth Davies
1 Phil John
2 Matthew Rees
3 Samson Lee
4 Sione Timani
5 Tomas Vallejos
6 Aaron Shingler
7 Johnathan Edwards
8 Rob McCusker (capt)
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Shaun Hopkins, 18 Deacon Manu, 19 Richard Kelly, 20 Kieran Murphy, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Gareth Owen.
This will be the last game for the Scarlets before they bid farewell to their Wales internationals for the autumn series.
The Scarlets are supporting Wales with the largest number of international call-ups from the four Welsh regions (12 players) – but say that with that comes huge opportunities for a number of their wider squad players. Young Llanelli tight-head prop Samson Lee (19) is the latest to join-up to the senior Wales squad for the first time for training, as cover for Adam Jones.
Easterby said: “We congratulate all those players for their achievement and it says a lot about how much this region has invested and backed developing Welsh talent; but all our minds are on Edinburgh right now.
“For us, it’s a big game, and really important for us to get back to winning ways – it’s a decent track which will hopefully suit some of our players and important to get a result to see those boys off on a good note and focus on Zebre after the weekend.
“Losing so many players does creates a few problems and along with injuries can be disruptive because you can’t select consistently; however we are lucky that we have a group of players behind those going, that will want to step-up and have been playing regular rugby with our partner clubs in the Premiership – Llanelli, Carmarthen Quins and Llandovery. “
Those unavailable through injury for Scarlets:
Rhodri Jones (prop, shoulder)
Rob Evans (prop, hip)
Emyr Phillips (hooker, bicep)
Kirby Myhill (hooker, dislocated finger)
George Earle (second row, concussion)
Joe Snyman (second row, chest infection)
Josh Turnbull (back row, neck strain)
Tavis Knoyle (scrum half, knee strain)
Rhodri Williams (scrum half, dead leg)
Jordan Williams (outside half, dislocated shoulder)
Gareth Maule (centre, quad strain)
Jon Davies (centre, groin)
Andy Fenby (wing, dead leg)
Dan Newton (full back, groin)