Preview: Scarlets v Glasgow

Date published: January 6 2012

The Scarlets will look to build on their strong Christmas performances when they host Glasgow at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday.

The Scarlets will look to build on their strong Christmas performances when they host Glasgow at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday.

The Llanelli-based side have recorded only one loss in their last seven PRO12 contests with recent wins in both their derby fixtures and five wins out of six at home in the tournament this season.

The Scarlets did the double on Glasgow last season and have faired well against Scottish clubs winning their last five matches against their opponents across the northern border.

Scarlets coach Nigel Davies knows his side faces strong opposition with Glasgow unbeaten in their last four fixtures against Welsh opponents and strong performances this season that sees them sit in third position in the league on 34 points – with the Scarlets in sixth on 30 points.

“We said before Christmas that the trio of games against the Ospreys, Dragons and Glasgow were crucial in terms of our league position and aspirations to challenge for a play-off place,” explained Davies.

“It's a massive game for us this weekend to stay in contention and good to see that we'll have another big home crowd to support us and spur the boys on.

“Our two team performances over the festive season produced competitive wins against the Ospreys and Dragons which was a very positive statement from both a Scarlets and national perspective showing the commitment to develop Welsh talent.

“The selections and performances showed that we have strength in depth building here and there's some fierce competition now to get and hold onto the Scarlets shirt across the 15..

“Glasgow have really progressed this season, they are a well-coached side and play a good brand of rugby and certainly deserve the success they've had so far,” he added.

The Scarlets field a strong and attacking back-line with George North and Scottish international Sean Lamont on the wing, Jon Davies and Scott Williams in centre partnership with Rhys Priestland at outside half and Gareth Davies at scrum-half.

Hooker Matthew Rees leads his Scarlets side with Iestyn Thomas returning to the front row and Deacon Manu starting at tighthead with plenty of power on the bench with replacement forwards Ken Owens, Rhys Thomas, Josh Turnbull, Aaron Shingler and Rhodri Jones.

Scarlets and Scotland wing Sean Lamont, is looking forward to the big weekend and facing the side he will join back home next season and where his brother Rory now plays – although the chance of facing his brother on the pitch is once again missed with Rory Lamont on the sidelines through injury.

“It should be a great game, both sides play an expansive game and Glasgow are one of the contenders for play-offs this season, so its going to be a key battle and a lot to play for in this game,” said Lamont.

“They've been going well, they have a wide game, are good in the line-out with some big name players in their side. We've just got to play to our strengths and make those hits.

“We want to get the year off to a good start at Parc y Scarlets and have worked hard and done well over Christmas – so we want to back that up and just need to keep climbing the ladder.

“We've got another major game on the horizon the following weekend with our Heineken Cup home fixture against Saints – so we need to keep the winning habit and hopefully with another great, vocal home crowd behind us.”

Meanwhile, one of Glasgow's longest-serving and popular members will head up the team's bid to stay at the top end of the PRO12 table.

Fergus Thomson, the hooker who has played some 122 games for the club since 2003, will make his first appearance of the season in the west Wales clash, having recovered from the shoulder injury which forced him to withdraw from the Scotland squad for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Thomson's inclusion comes as one of seven changes to the Warriors team that lifted the 1872 Cup for the fourth time in five seasons by beating Edinburgh Rugby 17-12 at Firhill on New Year's Day, in the process extending the club's best ever unbeaten run in the RaboDirect PRO12.

In the backline, Rob Dewey lines up at outside centre in place of Stuart Hogg, who was yesterday called up to the Scotland squad for the Six Nations six days after winning a long-term full professional contract with the Warriors.

The other switches behind the scrum see Tommy Seymour replace Colin Shaw on the wing, and Henry Pyrgos and Ruaridh Jackson team up in an all-new half-back pairing.

There is another fresh unit in the second row, where Tom Ryder and Rob Verbakel reprise the partnership that helped the Warriors secure a win at Cardiff Blues and a draw at Dragons on their last two visits to the Principality.

Graeme Morrison will captain the team in the absence of Al Kellock, while Scottish Rugby Elite Development scrum-half Murray McConnell, an unused replacement at Rodney Parade last month, is in line to make his Warriors debut from the bench.

Glasgow have won on two of their previous ventures to Parc y Scarlets, but emerged on the wrong side of the scoreline in each of last season's meetings with Nigel Davies' men.

Coach Sean Lineen is aware that the Scarlets have lost only once at home in the RaboDirect PRO12 this term.

“This is another massive test against a side who will be looking to put pressure on us in terms of the RaboDirect PRO12 table,” said Lineen.

“We've drawn our last three away matches between this competition and the Heineken Cup, and while we've been pleased with a number of the qualities that have shone through in those games, it's about going that one step further and discovering more of a clinical edge.

“The side we're sending out at the weekend is well balanced in that regard. We've got some real quality attacking threats across the backline, coupled with players who offer us real defensive solidity.

“We're going to need both bits of armory tomorrow. We want to inject a bit more fluidity into our game so that we do ourselves justice in a constructive sense, but we're also mindful that Scarlets have one of the most dangerous back divisions in European rugby.

“This is the first of another batch of huge fixtures for us, and it's important we manage the squad to make sure we're getting the best out of each individual over the course of the campaign.

“The guys we've brought in this weekend are chomping at the bit to be involved and they all more than merit a start for how they've performed when given the opportunity.

“It's great to have Fergus back in the mix – he's part of the fabric of this club and knows what it means to play and win for Glasgow.

“We're looking for each player to do their job, draw confidence from the great team ethic we've established, and bring home another positive result for our supporters.”

Form: Scarlets have recorded only one loss in their last seven RaboDirect PRO12 contests: 17-24 at Ulster on 2 December. The Welshmen's solitary home defeat this season in this