Whilst it wasn’t the best performance from the Scarlets, the importance of the bonus point win last weekend against Edinburgh was evident from Head Coach, Wayne Pivac as he looked ahead to the Connacht challenge. “We’ve got to remind ourselves it’s week 4,” added Pivac, “ When you look back at last year, we’re in a much better space. We’ll look to improve as the season goes along, but Championships aren’t won during the first four weeks, we certainly showed that last year!”
The disappointment of the loss against Ulster made it all the more important for the Scarlets to get back to winning ways with an emphasis in training being put on working on accuracy and decision making at the off-load. This coupled with work on basic skills has developed the team so that the forwards are comfortable with ball in hand.
Prop, Rob Evans agreed that following Edinburgh there was plenty to work on, but the squad was working hard in training and they were “chuffed with the 5 points against a tough Edinburgh team.”
Disappointingly, Samson Lee, John Barclay and Gareth Davies are all out of contention for Friday evening’s fixture against Connacht due to the head injuries picked up against Edinburgh. “ They go through a process,” explained Pivac, “Hadleigh Parkes passed his test on the day and has passed another since, but the process has ruled the others out.”
“We look at it as an opportunity for others in the squad to get out there and perform,” continued Pivac, as he added that Werner Kruger would start against Connacht and returning Scarlet, Simon Gardiner would make his first Pro14 appearance from the bench. “Simon has been very impressive, we have done some hard work to drop some weight and to get his mobililty up and he has certainly worked hard and earned the respect of the players and the management.”
Following another man of the man performance against Edinburgh and reports again linking Tadgh Berine with a move to Munster, Pivac explained “We would dearly love to keep Tadgh” he said, “But he’s got burning ambitions to play for Ireland like all our Welsh boys have to play for Wales and that is the way it should be.”
Despite there being no exact ruling that states that Irish players are required to play in Ireland, Pivac admitted that part of the decision would be out of the Scarlets’ control, adding “We will be looking at other players as well. Tadhg Beirne came in from outside and were he to go I am sure we will find someone to replace him.”
With the Ospreys fixture already a talking point amongst supporters, particularly given the current form from our neighbours across the bridge, Pivac insisted that Connacht is the sole focus for the Scarlets right now and getting the performance right to ensure they don’t drop a potential four or five points before the visit to the Liberty Stadium. He admitted when he arrived with the Region, he was told ‘as long as we beat the Ospreys’ and despite appreciating the importance of the rivalry of this local derby, this group of players want to win every week and understand the importance of every game, not just the big game on the calendar.
Another focus for this season is the Champions Cup, with Pivac revealing that in previous seasons it had been on the Pro12. With the Scarlets being picked in probably the most compeitive group for years, a huge emphasis will be placed on mantaining the home record in all competitions as well as picking up away wins to ensure that this season the Scarlets make it through the group stages. Scott Williams agreed, adding “It’s definitely do-able! It’s one of our goals now. We were close last year, we put in some really good performances. It’s probably one of the best groups since I’ve been here.”
Williams was rested for last week’s game against Edinburgh but is raring to go against Connacht, highlighting the strength in depth that is beginning to build at the Scarlets now in that the coaches are able to rotate the squad.
He revealed that from the end of last season the squad is playing the most enjoyable rugby he’s ever played…playing for each other, for the coaches and the region as a whole. “Ulster’s reaction to beating us showed the respect other teams have for us now,” continued Williams.
Whilst the Scarlets have always been famous for their open attacking style of play, Williams believes it was the improvement in the defence that won them the title. “Shaun Edwards always says that defence wins you titles,” revealed the Centre. “We were disappointed not to do better in Ulster but now we have to really focus on Connacht. We need to start well and make sure we don’t slip up on Friday.”
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