Preview: Scarlets v Dragons

Date published: November 24 2011

The Scarlets will be keen to stay unbeaten when they host the Dragons in Friday's RaboDirect PRO12 clash at Parc y Scarlets.

The Scarlets will be keen to stay unbeaten when they host the Dragons in Friday's RaboDirect PRO12 clash at Parc y Scarlets.

The home side want to stretch their unbeaten run in all competitions to eight matches – equalling the record set back in 2003/4 season.

Their team mixes experience and some of the season's brightest new talent including bringing back Adam Warren at centre alongside Gareth Maule who returns from injury.

Scottish international Sean Lamont starts on the wing with a return to the starting XV for Nick Reynolds, who has been back on form with Llanelli RFC following an ankle injury.

And new to the mix and on the bench for Friday night's game is new Tongan wing signing Viliami Iongi who landed in Llanelli this week from Auckland and has fired in his first training sessions in the Scarlets shirt.

Stephen Jones, who appears in a Scarlets shirt for a staggering 300th time, is handed the captain's armband after opting to play for his region this weekend instead of a Barbarians invitation – after the team's impressive victory away from home over Northampton Saints in the Heineken Cup last weekend.

Jones, 33, is the Scarlets' record points scorer with 2781 points, Wales most capped player (104) and has notched up 80 European appearances to date in his career.

The Scarlets, who beat Northampton Saints 28-23 in the Heineken Cup last week, are without eight of their front line players who have been called up to Wales this week including Tavis Knoyle, Jon Davies, Matthew Rees, George North, Rhys Priestland, Liam Williams, Scott Williams and Rhodri Jones.

Depsite losing several key players, coach Nigel Davies is optimistic about his team's chances.

“It was a great win for us last weekend and a big performance, but we've got a long way to go in the league and so this week has brought everything back into sharp focus.

“The positive thing is that the squad are now working hard with confidence, belief and momentum – but that's all tempered with realism.

“This fixture gives us the opportunity to bring back some of the boys who started the season so well with us and have been waiting for their chances.

“It's been good to see the boys pushing for places and depth building and this also links to the good work that's being done by our Premiership clubs with the players. We work closely with the coaches and it's a real strong point in this region.

“The Dragons will be keen to come here and make a statement and we've got to be ready for that, it's a very competitive league and getting stronger.

“We know the Dragons are a good team and battle it out in the contact area – they're a well-coached side and it will be a difficult game for us.

“But we have to come out and backing up our performance up at Northampton with a win,” he added.

Meanwhile, Dragons centre Ashley Smith captains his side on his 100th appearance for the region.

Smith's first Dragons appearance came in 2005 when he came on as a replacement against Worcester in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, he has since gone on to score 13 tries for the Dragons.

There are four changes to the Dragons' starting line-up with coach Darren Edwards happy to be able to name an unchanged back line. All four changes are amongst the forwards pack with three of them enforced by Wales international call-ups.

Rhys Buckley comes in for Lloyd Burns at hooker, Andrew Coombs replaces Lewis Evans and Toby Faletau's place is taken by Tom Brown, after his man of the match performance for Newport against Llandovery last week.

The other change comes at prop where Phil Price starts ahead of Nathan Williams.

Form Scarlets are unbeaten in their last seven matches in all competitions, since their 10-20 reversal in Treviso in the RaboDirect PRO12 on 1 October. The Welshmen have won their last four games at Parc y Scarlets, and are undefeated in their last three encounters with fellow Welsh regions. Newport Gwent Dragons have begun their European Challenge Cup campaign with back to back wins over Prato and Perpignan, but in PRO12 actionhave won just one of their last four matches. Dragons have not won away from home in this competition since a visit to Aironi on 20 February. The Men from Gwent have won four of their last five encounters with fellow Welsh Regions. Scarlets have won the last six clashes with Dragons in this tournament, but the Newport based outfit won 26-9 when the two sides met in the Anglo-Welsh Cup at Rodney Parade on 6 February.

The teams:

Scarlets: 15 Daniel Evans, 14 Nick Reynolds, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Gareth Maule, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Stephen Jones (c), 9 Gareth Davies,8 Ben Morgan, 7 Johnathan Edwards, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Sione Timani, 3 Rhys Thomas, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Iestyn Thomas, 18 Deacon Manu, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Mat Gilbert, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Dan Newton, 23 Viliami Iongi.

Dragons: 15 Martyn Thomas, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 Adam Hughes, 12 Ashley Smith (c), 11 Aled Brew, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Wayne Evans, 8 Tom Brown, 7 Gavin Thomas, 6 Andrew Coombs, 5 Rob Sidoli, 4 Adam Jones, 3 Dan Way, 2 Rhys Buckley, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Steve Jones, 17 Nathan Williams, 18 Nathan Buck, 19 Scott Morgan, 20 Jevon Groves, 21 Joe Bedford, 22 Lewis Robling, 23 Steffan Jones.

Date: Friday, November 25
Kick-off: 19:05
Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Referee: Leighton Hodges
Assistant referees: Tim Hayes, John Mason
Television match official: Nigel Whitehouse