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The Scarlets have the luxury of a full training week this week for the first time since before the festive period as they prepare for the huge European battle against English Premiership giants, Bath.
There’s good news for the Scarlets on the injury front with both Leigh Halfpenny and Johnny McNicholl back in training and a decision will be made during the Captain’s Run as to whether they will be included in the match day squad. Both Scott Williams and Gareth Davies are available for selection as are Paul Asquith who has recovered from a virus and Aaron Shingler who was unwell over the weekend. Lewis Rawlins and Tadhg Beirne also return to action with Samson Lee training well following his return last Friday.
“We’re looking a lot better in training” revealed Head Coach, Wayne Pivac. “This week’s just about trying to get our attacking game going again, get some consistency in our transitional play, understand our roles and to make sure we’re all doing the right things!”
“Obviously we’re keeping an eye on Bath,” he continued. “We’ve just got to look back to when we played them last time. They were more clinical than we were, more disciplined than we were, played the conditions better than we did and they got the result!”
“We’ve got a lot of respect for Bath,” he added. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere, we’re really looking forward to the occasion. It’s like a knock-out game!”
Last Friday’s man of the match, Rhys Patchell added “We need to have a crack at them! Hopefully, we get a tidy, dry night down at The Rec which is a great place to play and it will be a big game for both teams in Europe.”
He added, “We’re in OK shape for Friday night. We’re right in the mix, aren’t we? We all fancy our chances leading into this round and I think this becomes a very pivotal weekend in the make up of the group. This is why Europe is great – it all goes down to these last two weekends normally.”
Captain, Ken Owens agreed, “We’ve set ourselves up now with an opportunity to qualify – it’s knock-out rugby now, so we’ve got to win on Friday night.”
He continued “It’s a massive challenge – we’re looking forward to it! We’re quietly confident we can go up there and get a result.”
Owens added “We’re in a much a better position now to compete – we didn’t have the depth to be able to rotate. Now we’ve got a much deeper squad. It has allowed us to compete in Europe and the League. For us, we just have to win our next two games and hopefully it will be enough to take us through. Its in our hands, which we haven’t had for a long time. For a club with our history, its down to us as players to deliver performances that will take us through to the Quarter Finals hopefully.”
With the welcome news that Scrum Half, Jonathan Evans has extended his contract with the Scarlets, Pivac added “We’re very happy that he’s re-signed. He’s a quality nine. He’s an attacking threat – it’s one of his strengths and statistically he’s our best defending nine.”
Other players are lined up for the Scarlets, with a lot of work going on behind the scenes, but Pivac revealed there were no clues as to whom, stating that players outside the region have contracts that they have to honour and making announcements early can jeopardise their selection. The timing has to be right for both parties, but he is confident that he has the depth he wants across the board for next season.
He added that at the Scarlets, form goes a long way to selection. “It doesn’t matter who the players are, international players or not, if they’re not performing, they don’t get selected.”
“All the boys know that when they get selected, there’s pressure there to perform because there’s other guys that are happy, when they get the opportunity, to play as well as they can – that’s why we were successful last year – because there was a lot of competition in the group.” He continued “The players push each other along in training and get the best out of each other.”
With rumours this week that the Blues had ruled themselves out of the chase for Wing George North, Pivac was asked again if this was still the case with the Scarlets.
“George has been fantastic player and I believe he still has a lot of good rugby in him in the right environment,” revealed Pivac. “I think he’d go very, very well in this environment. What we’ve got to be mindful of is the number of internationals that we have, and to accumulate points to win the competition we had the spine of a team last year, whilst the internationals were away, that could do that.”
“We’ve got to be very mindful of the balance in the group,” he continued. “If we had the funding, the luxury of a George – I think this would be a great place for him to play his rugby. We’ve got a group of young players in the club coming through that I think have got big, big futures in the game – Tommy Rogers, Tommy Lewis, Cory Baldwin, Ioan Nicholas – these are young men with big futures – it’s a balancing act, you know. That’s where we’re at……I imagine I’d be catching up with George…….!”
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