In his review of last weekend’s derby match, Head Coach, Wayne Pivac revealed that he was happy to get the result against arch enemies the Ospreys and to go into Europe at the top of Conference B.
Despite their current form, the Ospreys didn’t make life easy for the Scarlets in the first half. “We knew that the Ospreys were going to throw everything at it, we wouldn’t expect anything less,” continued Pivac. “We didn’t get going in the first half. We defended pretty well but were disappointed that we didn’t play much rugby in that the possession we did have we gave it back to them too easily.”
“The change in the second half was very pleasing,” he added. It certainly seemed that the Scarlets had learnt lessons from the Ulster loss as the Scarlets were able to contain the Ospreys in their own half for the last 10 minutes of the game. “The confidence was there,” continued Pivac. “For a team to have that much possession and territory and not get a try on the board…on another day we’d have kicked a few goals, probably got the fourth try and it would have been a comfortable win.”
Looking ahead to the start of this season’s Champions’ Cup, Pivac admitted that the opening fixtures would be tough due to the 5-day turn around. “We really want to do well in Europe this season,” he continued. “We have to be smart how we manage the boys this week and next week.”
“We asked the question, we felt that us having a five-day turnaround and Bath having a six-day turnaround, maybe it wasn’t a level playing field and could that be revised, but it stayed the same.”
Disappointingly on the injury front, both Rob Evans and John Barclay are unavailable for selection for the visit to the Stade Mayol as they are still completing the HIA process. However, it is hopeful that Evans will be fit for the Bath game as there has been a considerable improvement in his recovery.
Thankfully, the derby offered no new injury worries apart from a few bumps and bruises that are expected from such a tough encounter. The good news is that Leigh Halfpenny is expected to take a full part in training tomorrow and will be available for selection and will relish playing against his old team.
Despite the few injury worries, including of course, James Davies, Pivac believes his squad is in a far better shape than last season where the likes of Ken Owens and Jake Ball were missing. “We’ve learnt a lot of lessons from last season. We have to look at where we have our depth and use it wisely,” added Pivac.
One player looking forward to his first Toulon experience is the in-form Johnny McNicholl. His hernia operation shortly after his arrival in West Wales meant that he was on the injury list last season for the corresponding fixture. “They’re a quality side with big name players,” McNicholl said. “Personally, I’ve only played one game in Europe against Sarries last year,” he continued. “It’s definitely a step up. It’s more intense, more intense during the week too. We’re really on the ball, really wanting to play well to show everyone else, not just the Pro14, what we’re about.”
It was last December that the Scarlets faced Toulon in the same fixture, and despite the historic victory in Parc y Scarlets, the away fixture was one that could have been won. “As a team we’re in a lot better shape,” Pivac continued. “In every area we’ve improved. Even though we’re missing big game players like Evans, Barclay and James Davies, the depth has improved. We’ll be going there with one thing in mind – to get as many points as possible.”
“There’s two Toulon teams really,” he added. “One team that plays at home and one that plays away. We’ve looked at the performances at home. They’re big, they’re powerful and they have a lot of talent in their squad. You underestimate them at your peril.”
A good start is imperative for the Scarlets as last season the Toulon juggernaut notched up 24 points early on in the game. “We want to stop the crowd throwing newspapers about!” joked Ryan Elias. This will be the fourth time the young Hooker has been involved in a Toulon fixture and he revealed that the mindset in the squad is different now – it is no long about damage limitation. “We want to go out and win now. We’re not making up the numbers in this competition,” he added.
Head Coach, Pivac agreed, adding “We want to be contenders, we want to test ourselves in this group phase and obviously try and get out of the group stage for the first time in a long, long time.”
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