The Scarlets are back in action in the RaboDirect Pro12 as they face fourth placed Munster in a big contest out in Ireland on Sunday evening.
Munster will be fighting to keep their impressive record against Scarlets at home as they have not lost to the Welsh Region since March 2007, whilst second placed Scarlets will be aiming to grab valuable points on the road and close the gap on leaders Ulster.
With just seven points diving second placed Scarlets and sixth placed Leinster the race for the top four play-off places continues with intensity during the international window with crucial points on offer in the next fortnight.
Munster have won their last three games in all competitions. The Munstermen’s only home defeat in the PRO12 since October 2011 was 18-9 to Leinster at Thomond Park on 31 March. Munster have won their last 15 games at Musgrave Park since Glasgow won there 21-18 on 10 May 2008.
Scarlets have won their last three matches in the RaboDirect PRO12 and are unbeaten in their last four encounters with Irish provinces in the competition.
Munster are unbeaten in their last 15 clashes with Scarlets in all competitions since the European Cup quarter-final in March 2007. Scarlets have lost on all their seven previous visits to Musgrave Park.
Scarlets Head Coach Simon Easterby fields an exciting mix of experience, flair and ambitious up-and-coming talent in his starting XV with a return to regional action for Morgan Stoddart at full-back as Liam Williams is called up to Wales to replace his injured Scarlets team-mate George North.
The centre partnership remains the same as last weekend’s derby against Cardiff Blues with Gareth Maule linking up with former Ospreys centre Gareth Owen to create an impressive back line with Morgan Stoddart at full-back, Andy Fenby on the wing with Nick Reynolds in for the injured Kristian Phillips and Andy Fenby on the other wing. Aled Thomas who showed strong form with the boot last weekend starts at outside half with Gareth Davies back at scrum-half.
Kirby Myhill and Samson Lee are released back from Wales’ training squad this weekend, adding some youthful power and energy to the Scarlets bench, while South African signing George Earle moves from the second row to cover back row following the number of international call-up for Scarlets back-row players in addition to injuries.
Head Coach Simon Easterby says his side fully understand the importance of the next two league games in the context of their ambitions for a play-off place later next year.
He said: “These games can cement positions later on and picking up points on the road will be valuable – the top six is very tight again already with Ulster, ourselves, Glasgow, Munster, the Ospreys and Leinster all in the race. We know these teams will all be very competitive and challenging opponents in these next two rounds regardless of the number of internationals that are missing.
“Yes we’re hit fairly hard from the number of international call-ups with up to 15 players away from our squad at the moment but this is when our wide squad players really step-up and the challenge of beating Munster on their home turf is one the boys are looking forward to. We know they’re a good team without their front line players – they have a strong team mentality and know how to win games even when they’re not on the top of their game.
“We go there with positive momentum after last week, our scrum was very positive and we played some good rugby in the second half and we have the sharp focus is that there’s 10 points on offer this week and next and that will set us up nicely if we can deliver strong performances on the day and achieve two big results against tough opposition.”
Scarlets Team V Munster RaboDirect PRO12 Sunday 25th November kick-off 5.15pm at Musgrave Park:
15 Morgan Stoddart 14 Nick Reynolds, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Gareth Owen, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Gareth Davies, 1 Phil John, 2 Emyr Phillips, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse 4 Jake Ball, 5 Richard Kelly, 6 George Earle, 7 Johnathan Edwards (capt), 8 Craig Price.
Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Shaun Hopkins, Samson Lee, Johan Snyman, Dan Thomas, Rhodri Williams, Dan Newton, Adam Warren.
Not available for selection through injury: Kristain Phillips, wing (groin), Kieran Murphy, no8 (hip)