Friday, 28 March 2014

Scarlets homecoming for international stars

Scarlets are bolstered both up front and in the backs ahead of this Sunday's RaboDirect PRO12 clash against Connacht at Parc y Scarlets with a number of the region's international stars back on home soil.
With only five fixtures remaining in the regular RaboDirect PRO12 season, and four of the five home ties for the Scarlets, the West Wales region will be targeting a victory in the crucial clash against Connacht on Mother's Day.
Scarlets have won the last four encounters against Connacht and have won the last three matches at Parc y Scarlets whilst Connacht haven't won away from home against the West Walians since October 2004 at Stradey Park. Scarlets Head Coach Simon Easterby said: "What's advantageous to us is that we're playing four of our five remaining games at home and it's in our hands to make the top six. We should be confident in the ability that we have here that we've got what it takes to achieve that."
Returning international Ken Owens, Rhodri Jones and Jake Ball add weight up front whilst Rhys Priestland, Liam Williams and Jonathan Davies, who'll captain the side in Rob McCusker's absence, all bring in experience to the backline.
Easterby said that the return of the international players will boost the region as they head into the final stages of the PRO12 season, saying: "Despite coping reasonably well during the Six Nations campaign the quality the boys bring to the table now is important. This week is about putting in the performance and we've had a little more time together to prepare and for the players to get back into their patterns."
"The likes of Rhys and Jon have a lot of responsibility in terms of performance, they'll be able to lead us through the last five games; there are plenty of positives still to come!”
Having narrowly missed out on a losing bonus point against Glasgow last weekend Scarlets' hopes of reaching the top four play-off spot have slipped further from grasp, Easterby said: "We were all disappointed and frustrated after last weekend's performance, based on the games we have remaining it's going to be pretty difficult for us to target that top four spot. Having said that it now makes the remaining five games really important; we can't afford to look passed finishing in the top 6.”
On fronting up against Irish province Connacht, Easterby went on to say: "They've won four games on the bounce which has seen them move up into seventh place and trail us by only four points. Their scrum and line-out drive has been really effective and our discipline has got to be spot on against them on Sunday."
"They've started to find their feet under Pat Lam and they have a really effective set piece, driving line-out and scrum, they're well equipped pretty much right across the park.”
Scarlets team v Connacht, Sunday 30th March kick-off 2.05pm at Parc y Scarlets:
15 Liam Williams, 14 Kristian Phillips, 13 Jonathan Davies ©, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Jordan Williams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 1 Phil John, 2 Ken Owens, 3 Rhodri Jones, 4 Jake Ball, 5 Johan Snyman, 6 Josh Turnbull, 7 John Barclay, 8 Sione Timani
Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Rob Evans, Jacobie Adriaanse, Richard Kelly, Lewis Rawlins, Rhodri Williams, Aled Thomas, Gareth Maule


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