Preview: Scarlets v Ospreys

Date published: December 24 2015

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac has named his side for the Boxing Day derby clash against Ospreys at Parc y Scarlets.
Captain Ken Owens, John Barclay and Aaron Shingler make a return for the big derby clash with Owens to lead the side looking to a ninth victory in the PRO12.
Aled Davies has been named at scrum-half in the only change to the backline from the side that narrowly lost to Glasgow Warriors in last week's European Rugby Champions Cup clash with Gareth Davies moving to the replacements bench.
Four changes to the pack see Owens, Shingler and Barclay replace Emyr Phillips, Maselino Paulino and Jack Condy with Lewis Rawlins moving from the back to second row.
Speaking earlier this week Pivac said: "This is a very different proposition for us and a game that we're all looking forward to.
"Ospreys have been playing very well and playing some good rugby. They're going to be a big threat to us, they have some class players. What we won't be doing, and haven't done in our preparation, is take for granted the league standings.
"They had a slow start in the league campaign but they're coming good. There's a long way to go in this competition and some good sides will miss out on the play-off spots.

"We're prepared for a dog fight come the end of the season but we want to, give ourselves the best opportunity to push for the play off positions come the end of the season.”

Meanwhile, Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy has made just one change to his starting XV after last weekend's Champions Cup loss to Bordeaux.

The only change is in the backline where Hanno Dirksen comes on in for Eli Walker on the left wing. Tandy highlighted the importance of this weekend's clash.

“We’re in the middle of a busy period with big games coming thick and fast, but that is something you have to thrive on, as a coach, player or supporter," he said.

“Europe has gone well for us up to this point and it’s fantastic that with two games remaining we are in a good place as far as potential progress is concerned, but it’s important that we park that up for now and focus all our efforts on the PRO12 and the big job we have on our hands to climb the table.

“Everybody knows that Boxing Day will be a big occasion with a full house, with all the rivalry and atmosphere that goes with a derby match and that’s fantastic for the supporters but we can’t get caught up in all that. We have to be professional in everything we do.

“We know how important this match is but it’s not going to define our season one way or the other. If we win this and then lose the next two against the Dragons and Leinster then the win won’t mean anything in the bigger scheme of things so we have to ensure that we are switched on throughout this period and do what we’ve got to do.

“There’s been a lot of talk recently about being number one in Wales but that’s not a motivation for us, we want to win every game we play, we want to compete at the highest level, week in, week out, against Welsh, Irish, Scottish, Italian, English or French opposition. We aren’t just looking next door.

“We’ll have to be spot on in our preparation, ignore what goes on around us on Saturday, be focused and make sure we are at our best. We know that the Scarlets will come out fired up for it with a big crowd behind them, but there’ll be plenty of Ospreys supporters there to help us continue building our recent momentum.”

Form: Top of the table Scarlets have lost just one game in the PRO12 since Edinburgh visited Llanelli in March – 15-19 at Leinster on 6 November. That defeat to the Scotsmen is their only loss in their last 22 home fixtures at Parc y Scarlets in the PRO12. The only fellow Welsh region to have defeated Scarlets in a home game in the PRO12 since April 2010, is Ospreys, who have done so three times. Ospreys have won their last three PRO12 encounters – home and away against Zebre and at home to the Blues, but have not won an away game other than in Italy in any tournament since May. Ospreys have lost just one of their last seven away games against fellow Welsh regions. Scarlets ended a five game losing streak against Ospreys with their 22-10 victory in this equivalent fixture at Parc y Scarlets last season.

The teams:

Scarlets: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Steff Evans, 13 Gareth Owen, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Morgan Allen, 7 John Barclay, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Lewis Rawlins, 4 Jake Ball, 2 Ken Owens (c), 1 Rob Evans. 
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Phil John, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 George Earle, 20 Jack Condy, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Steve Shingler, 23 Regan King

Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Ben John, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Hanno Dirksen, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tom Habberfield, 8 James King, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Paul James. 
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Dan Baker, 21 Brendon Leonard, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Eli Walker.

Date: Saturday, December 26
Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Kick-off: 14:05 GMT
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Leighton Hodges (Wales), Wayne Davies (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)