The Scarlets will seek to narrow the six-point gap on RaboDirect PRO12 leaders Ulster this Sunday as they host a top-two league clash at Parc y Scarlets.
A big win over Munster last weekend has kept competition tight between the top six and the Scarlets know how important a home win will be to their ambitions for a top four play-off place later in the season as they host the leaders.
The contests between Scarlets and Ulster have been close encounters over the past two seasons with just a few points in it every time and Sunday’s clash is expected to be no different.
Ulster travel to Parc y Scarlets with an impressive 100% winning record this season and it will take a Scarlets side at its very best to stake another major landmark this weekend and turn an upbeat and confident Ulster team.
However, a positive Scarlets team broke down the barriers by winning for the first time in 16 games out in Cork last weekend with a strong performance against a formidable Munster home record. And now the hosts will feel it’s well within their grasp to break another big record – this time putting an end to Ulster’s staggering unbeaten run.
Attack Coach Mark Jones said the Scarlets will have to come out firing on their home soil and play at their very best. He said: “They have threats all over the park, so we know we’ll have to be at the top of our game. It’s going to be a real challenge for us, one we’re looking forward to and a great game of rugby is in prospect if the conditions allow.
“Ulster have got plenty of quality in their squad, and also the luxury of calling on their internationals, so we know it’s going to be a big test for us and we respect what Ulster have achieved this season.
“While we know we’ve got stern opposition, we’ve concentrated on ourselves this week, making sure we have our own house in order. We’ve been working closely with the players to help them improve their reading of the game as it’s happening encouraging them to take responsibility and show the mental agility to adapt as they need to.
“Credit to all the boys that haven’t been involved in the internationals, they’ve worked very hard and put in some big performances for the region while a big group of our players were away. A number of them have laid down the gauntlet to those returning and that’s what we want as coaches to see that competition.”
The Scarlets have won their last four games in the RaboDirect PRO12, whilst their only defeat in the tournament at Parc y Scarlets in their last 13 fixtures was 16-23 to Ospreys on 21 September. No Irish province has won at the stadium since Leinster were the visitors on 24 September 2011.
Ulster’s superb unblemished start to the 2012/13 campaign continues apace with eleven straight wins in all competitions. The Ulstermen are attempting to complete a clean sweep of victories away from home to the Welsh regions this season.
The last three matches between the two sides have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Ulster’s only win in Llanelli came on 18 February 2011.
The Scarlets welcome back three of their squad from international duty all of whom give strength to the bench for Sunday’s game – Deacon Manu (Fiji), Tomas Vallejos (Argentina) and Kirby Myhill (Wales).
Scarlets Team V Ulster Sunday 2nd December 2012 kick-off 4pm at Parc y Scarlets. 15 Dan Newton 14 Kristian Phillips, 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 Johan Snyman, 5 Richard Kelly, 6 George Earle, 7 Johnathan Edwards (capt), 8 Kieran Murphy.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Shaun Hopkins, 18 Deacon Manu, 19 Tomas Vallejos, 20 Craig Price, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Adam Warren, 23 Nick Reynolds.