Preview: Castres v Scarlets

Date published: January 20 2012

Scarlets will be gunning for a place in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals when they meet Castres in their final Heineken Cup game.

Scarlets will be gunning for a place in the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals when they meet Castres in their final Heineken Cup game on Saturday.

The Pro12 outfit ran out comfortable 31-23 winners over Castres in Wales in the Pool opener but the trip to Stade Pierre Antoine will be anything but easy against a side which beat last season's finalists Northampton on their own patch.

The Scarlets will need a bonus point win from their French trip and after the bitter disappointment of last weekend's narrow loss to Saints, the visitors will be looking to put in a big performance.

The hosts have named a very strong team as they aim to build on a solid performance away to Munster last weekend.

Romain 'Robocop' Teulet returns at full-back in a starting XV that features ten changes.

Fijian veteran Seremaia Bai and South African scrum-half Rory Kockott form the half-back partnership while Scott Murray returns to the second row and former All Black Chris Masoe leads the charge at number eight.

Meanwhile, with a full-strength backline looking to fire, there's plenty of potential in attack for the Scarlets to push a high-scoring game and with Stephen Jones and Rhys Priestland both starting the Scarlets have strong options and experience with the boot on the field from the outset.

The backs division includes Jon Davies and Scott Williams in a centre partnership and Liam Williams and George North on the Scarlets wings with exciting young scrum-half Rhodri Williams at nine.

“We know how close we have come to results against some of the best sides in Europe including Munster and the effort and mentality that went into beating Northampton at their home – so this is about making our statement on this game and finishing the pool stages with our heads up,” said Scarlets boss Nigel Davies.

“We had expectations of ourselves in this tournament and it is very disappointing for us not to have got to the knock-out stages but that itself shows some how far we have come in a short amount of time. In the three games we've narrowly lost the margins have been very small and the result and hurt of last weekend will drive us on.

“I'm proud of the commitment and drive shown by this group of Scarlets players – they have given total commitment and if you consider that six of our backline European squad were in their first season in Heineken Cup rugby, you have to give credit to them and shows the progression we're making as a region and our commitment to develop our talent.”

“We have a lot of experience and flair in our backline for Saturday night and the players just want to get back out on the field now – we're putting our best players on the park and to have the experience and options for kicking and first receiver of both Steve (Jones) and Rhys (Priestland) will be important for us.

“The intensity of rugby over the past few weeks means we're carrying a fairly long injury list, particularly in our pack – but we're not phased by that. This is another great opportunity for some of our wider squad and a test of the character and attitude of these players.

“It won't be easy, winning out in France is a big challenge – but if we create the same amount of opportunities as we did against Northampton and look to be more clinical, then we have a good chance of achieving what we need to.

“It will be physical no doubt, but Castres are a side you can play against, so it could be a high scoring game and that might suit us.”

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Castres Olympique: 15 Romain Teulet, 14 Romain Martial, 13 Paul Bonnefond, 12 Pierre-Manuel Garcia, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Seremaia Bai, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Steve Malonga, 6 Jannie Bornman, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Scott Murray, 3 Karena Wihongi, 2 Mathieu Bonello, 1 Saimone Taumoepeau.
Replacements: 16 Brice Mach, 17 Yannick Forestier, 18 Michaël Coetzee, 19 Matthias Rolland, 20 Yannick Caballero, 21 Thierry Lacrampe, 22 Pierre Bernard, 23 Max Evans.

Scarlets:15 Rhys Priestland, 14 George North, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jon Davies, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Stephen Jones (capt), 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Matt Gilbert, 7 Johnathan Edwards, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Dominic Day 4 Lou Reed, 3 Peter Edwards, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Iestyn Thomas, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Sione Timani, 20 Richie Pugh, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Gareth Maule, 23 Viliame Iongi.

Date: Saturday, January 21
Venue: Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres
Kick-off: 19.00 (18.00 GMT)
Referee: 'JP' Doyle