Preview: Scarlets v Munster

Date published: September 2 2016

Scarlets will take on Munster in the beginning of their PRO12 campaign at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday. 

Head Coach Wayne Pivac has named an all-star cast, including 11 international players, in his matchday 23 for the championship opener.

Captain Ken Owens will lead the side to the field at Parc y Scarlets in what promises to be a thrilling opening encounter; Dylan Evans and South African international Werner Kruger join him in the front row.
The second row pairing sees Lewis Rawlins link up with Wales international Jake Ball who makes his first appearance of the season whilst Aaron Shingler and John Barclay are joined in the back row by 19-year-old Josh Macleod.
Macleod is set to make his first competitive start for the Scarlets having previously represented the region in two pre-season friendlies. Despite being just nineteen years old, Macleod's physical stature ensures his presence is felt on the field. He was called into Wales Under-20s squad ahead of the Six Nations Championship earlier this year and celebrated an historic Grand Slam with his country.
The stellar backline sees the return of Liam Williams and Scott Williams, who were both absent for the majority of the 2015-16 campaign, and they're joined by Rugby World Cup star DTH van der Merwe also making a return from injury aswell as newcomer Rhys Patchell.
Speaking ahead of the opening encounter of the PRO12 campaign head coach Wayne Pivac said: "It's been nice to have an edge in training. Munster bring a lot of physicality, we played them in the last game of the season last year, it's fresh in our minds and they will attack us around the fringes.
"We know a lot about them, they're a strong and proud side with a lot of history like we are. It's going to be a tough game, as the home games against them have been in the last few seasons."

Meanwhile new Munster Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus has named his first PRO12 matchday squad. Erasmus makes just one change from the starting XV that defeated Worcester Warriors last Friday with Dave Foley coming into the second row. 

Following two strong showings in the Kearys Renault Series, academy centre Dan Goggin retains the number 13 jersey and will make his first competitive start tomorrow.

Returning internationals Dave Kilcoyne and Donnacha Ryan could see some game time this weekend after being named on a bench that sees academy prop Brian Scott and second row Jean Kleyn included in a PRO12 matchday squad for the first time.

James Cronin, Niall Scannell and John Ryan make up the front row with Foley coming in to partner captain Billy Holland in the second row. As you were in the back row with Dave O'Callaghan, Tommy O'Donnell and Jack O'Donoghue all remaining in situ.

Duncan Williams starts at scrum half and joins Tyler Bleyendaal in the half backs. The New Zealander will make his first PRO12 appearance since December.

Having spent two years together in the Munster Academy, Goggin will be well acquainted with his midfield partner Rory Scannell, while Ronan O'Mahony, Darren Sweetnam and full-back Simon Zebo again make up the back three.

Form: Scarlets only defeat on the opening weekend in the last five years of PRO12 came when Leinster visited Parc y Scarlets in 2013. Scarlets have lost their last two matches at the venue, to Cardiff Blues and Glasgow Warriors but have never lost three in a row at home in the PRO12 since moving to their new stadium in 2008. Munster’s only defeat in Round 1 since 2009 was by a single point to Edinburgh in Limerick in 2014. The Munstermen concluded last season with the final seven rounds of PRO12 play all being won by the home side on the day. Munster have not won in Wales since visiting Ospreys in Round 2 last season. Both matches between the two teams last season went the way of home field advantage whilst Scarlets have not lost to Munster at Parc y Scarlets in the PRO12 since April 2011.

The teams:

Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 DTH van der Merwe, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Josh Macleod, 7 John Barclay, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Lewis Rawlins, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Ken Owens (c), 1 Dylan Evans
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Peter Edwards, 19 David Bulbring, 20 Tadhg Beirne, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Jonathan Davies

Munster: Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Dan Goggin, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Ronan O'Mahony, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 Jack O'Donoghue, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Dave O'Callaghan, 5 Billy Holland (c), 4 Dave Foley, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 James Cronin
Replacements: 16 Kevin O'Byrne, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Brian Scott, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Donnacha Ryan, 21 Tomás O'Leary, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Cian Bohane.

Date: Saturday, September 3
Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Kick-off: 15:00 BST (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Sam Grove-White (Scotland), Wayne Davies (Wales)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)