Preview: Scarlets v Blues

Date published: May 8 2015

1022.6666666666666x767__origin__0x0_Scarlets_fly-half_Rhys_Priestland

The Scarlets are in must-win mode as they try to secure a Champions Cup spot for next season by finishing in the top six.

They will likely need to win their two remaining games, starting with Sunday's derby at home to the Blues.

Captain Ken Owens will lead a strong side, that includes eight internationals, as the Scarlets look to secure sixth place in the Pro12.

Vice-captain Scott Williams is joined in the centre by Hadleigh Parkes as Regan King misses out due to concussion. Harry Robinson and Steff Evans join Liam Williams in the back three with Aled Davies partnering Rhys Priestland at fly-half in what is likely to be his last home game as a Scarlet.

The pack remains unchanged from the one that started against Newport Gwent Dragons at the Millennium Stadium a fortnight ago.

Speaking ahead of the game, head coach Wayne Pivac said: "The game isn't one that we've taken lightly. The first thing that springs to mind from that defeat to the Blues [before Christmas] is they got the upper hand on us in particular the forwards – they got on top of us. They put us under a lot of early pressure, scored a lot of points early on and we struggled to get back in the game."

Meanwhile hooker Matthew Rees and centre Gavin Evans both return to face their former region for the Blues.

Rees is back to captain the side as the coaching team at Cardiff Blues make a total of five changes to the side that faced Ospreys on Judgement Day.

Prop Thomas Davies packs down alongside Rees while lock Jarrad Hoeata is named in the second row alongside Filo Paulo.

Centre Evans, who played 75 times for Scarlets before moving to Blues in 2009, will team up in midfield with Garyn Smith, who was this week named in the Wales Under-20 squad for the World Rugby Championships.

The final change to the line-up is the return of wing Alex Cuthbert who has recovered from a minor finger operation to take his place out wide.

A positional change will see Rhys Patchell start at fly-half and Gareth Anscombe at full-back.

Manoa Vosawai, Tavis Knoyle, Richard Smith and Rhys Williams are among those to win places on the replacements bench.

Paul John, Attack Coach at Cardiff Blues, said: "We're looking forward to game. As rugby players we must have pride in our performance and when we put the jersey on give it everything we have got. We will do that this weekend.

"We are looking for two wins to finish the season. That will not hide the fact we are disappointed with the way the season has gone, but we have got to show some pride and also the flair we showed in the Ospreys game when we caused them problems.

"There will be some big individual battles out there, with the Rugby World Cup coming up, and players who need to show what they are capable of if they want to be part of the international set-up. That gives the game extra spice; a Rugby World Cup doesn't come around very often.

"When we played Scarlets earlier in the season we really produced on the day. It was one of our better displays this season and we had an edge that day; we need that edge again on Sunday.”

Form: Scarlets' solitary defeat in the last four rounds of Pro12 play came at home to Edinburgh on 28th March, in their most recent home game. Scarlets have not lost two games in a row in the Pro12 in the same season at Parc y Scarlets since December 2009. Since April 2010 fellow Welsh regions have visited the venue on sixteen occasions with the only three victories all being obtained by Ospreys. Cardiff Blues have lost their last four matches in all tournaments since beating Connacht 18-17 at home on 6th March. The Blues have picked up just 11 league points on the road this season, only the two Italian sides have had a poorer return away from home. Cardiff Blues were victorious 21-9 when the two sides met in round 10 of the Pro12 but have not achieved a season's double over their western neighbours since 2009/10. The capital side's only previous Pro12 victory in Llanelli came in April 2010 at Parc y Scarlets.

The teams:

Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Harry Robinson, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Aled Davies, 8 John Barclay, 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Lewis Rawlins, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Peter Edwards, 2 Ken Owens (c), 1 Phil John 
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 George Earle, 20 Rory Pitman, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Adam Warren

Cardiff Blues: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Joaquin Tuculet, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Josh Navidi, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Craig Mitchell, 2 Matthew Rees (c), 1 Thomas Davies
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21Tavis Knoyle, 22 Tom Isaacs, 23 Richard Smith

Date: Sunday, May 10
Venue: Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Ben Whitehouse (Wales), Wayne Davies (Wales)
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)

COMMENTS