Preview: Scarlets v Connacht

Date published: March 1 2012

Scarlets are boosted by the return of four Welsh internationals for their RaboDirect PRO12 encounter with Connacht.

Scarlets are boosted by the return of four Welsh internationals for their RaboDirect PRO12 encounter with Connacht on Friday.

Full-back Liam Williams, prop Rhodri Jones and second rowers Lou Reed and Aaron Shingler are back in the red of Scarlets having been released from international duty.

The quartet are joined in the starting line-up by experienced fly-half Stephen Jones.

Scarlets have won their last six RaboDirect PRO12 clashes at Parc y Scarlets and boss Nigel Davies knows his side will have to up their game if they're to continue that run.

“We will have to start a lot better than we did last week, we made hard work of that first 20 minutes against Treviso, but the players showed composure and pushed on to get the four tries we needed and we know that we'll have to be intense and right on top of game to get a result on Friday,” he told Scarlets' official website.

“This is another massive game for us – we need a good win and they're a tough team to face so we take nothing for granted. There's a fierce level of competition amongst all the teams in this league and it's all pretty level – there's no difference between playing a Connacht or an Ulster or a Munster anymore.

“We need to come out with the right mindset. Connacht are a well-coached side, they are very competitive and physical and will try to outmuscle us and they play some good rugby as we've seen in the Heineken Cup.”

Connacht have named a relatively inexperienced team for the clash, with a number of Academy players getting a run.

With Brett Wilkinson and Mike McCarthy unavailable due to their involvement with the national side, Peter Borlase gets his first taste of Connacht action at tighthead prop. On the other side of the scrum, Ronan Loughney adds some much-needed experience as he trots out for his 100th cap.

Flanker Dave Heffernan too makes his first appearance for the senior side, and he is joined in the back row by George Naoupu and Ray Ofisa. Fellow Academy man Mick Kearney turns out in the second row.

Eoin Griffin and Dave McSharry are reunited in the midfield while Miah Nikora replaces this injured Niall O'Connor at fly-half.

“It's great to see the guys getting the reward for their hard work and dedication,”Academy manager Nigel Carolan told the club's official site of the rise of the youngsters.

“Eric (Elwood) has always said that if players are good enough and patient enough they'll get their chances so it's great to see these opportunities open up for them.”

Form: Scarlets ended a three game losing streak with their 34-20 home win over Benetton Treviso on Thursday. The Welshmen have won their last six games at Parc y Scarlets in the RaboDirect PRO12 – their best run since 2006. Connacht's only reversal in their last four games in all competitions was 15-22 at Cardiff Blues in the PRO12 on 10 February. Connacht have won just once on the road in the tournament since September 2010: 11-9 in Treviso on 3 September. Connacht have won their last two games against Scarlets and are chasing a first ever season's double over the West Walians. Connacht have not won in Llanelli since 9 October 2004.

Scarlets: 15 Dan Newton, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Gareth Maule (capt), 12 Adam Warren, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Liam Davies, 8 Kieran Murphy. 7 Johnathan Edwards, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Aaron Shingler, 4 Lou Reed, 3 Deacon Manu, 2 Emyr Phillips, 1 Rhodri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Phil John, 18 Peter Edwards, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Mat Gilbert, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Nick Reynolds, 23 Liam Williams.

Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy (C), 14 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Tiernan O'Halloran, 10 Miah Nikora, 9 Frank Murphy, 8 George Naoupu, 7 Ray Ofisa, 6 Dave Heffernan, 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Peter Borlase, 2 Adrian Flavin, 1 Ronan Loughney.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Stewart Maguire, 19 John Muldoon, 20 Eoghan Grace, 21 Dave Moore, 22 Matthew Jarvis, 23 Kyle Tonetti.

Date: Friday, March 2
Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Kick-off: 19:30
Referee: Marius Mitrea
Assistant Referees: Tim Hayes and Greg Morgan

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