Preview: Scarlets v Sale Sharks

Date published: October 14 2016

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac has named a strong starting lnie-up, including 11 internationals, for Saturday's Champiions Cup opener with Sale Sharks at Parc y Scarlets.

British and Irish Lion Jonathan Davies returns to the starting line-up and will link up with fellow international Scott Williams in midfield whilst the remainder of the back-line remains unchanged from last weekend's side, that secured victory over the Dragons at the Parc.

The front row remains unchanged, Jake Ball returns to the second row and John Barclay makes a return to the starting line-up.

Looking ahead to the opening clash Pivac said: "What is clear is we're in a very tough pool, but having said that, the majority of them are pretty tough.

"I think it's a good thing from a players' point of view, if I was a player out there I'd want to pit myself against some of the best.

"We'll be going out giving it everything we've got to get a result. We'll worry about the other games when they come along. The home games are must wins if you want to get out of the pool. We have to make sure we cash in on the good start with round one at home. 

"We're certainly looking at it as the first game of a new campaign and we want to get off with the best possible start."

Meanwhile, Sale boss Steve Diamond has made three changes to the side which lost last week to Bath in the Premiership. 

Ross Harrison comes into the front row, replacing Eifion Lewis-Roberts. Mike Haley makes his first start of the season, coming in at full-back. 

Will Addison moves to 13, with Byron McGuigan moving to the wing. Also, Dan Mugford starts in place of AJ MacGinty. On the bench, Tom Curry will make his Sharks debut if he appears on the field.

Speaking about the game, Diamond said: "We've worked hard for the whole of last year to qualify for this competition. It's a fantastic group to be drawn in. We go away to the Scarlets who have won their last three games, so know it will be difficult.

"We are just looking for a good performance away from home. There is no point breaking records and qualifying for the competition, if you aren't going to have a crack at it. It'll be difficult to get through the group but let's see if we can get a winning start on Saturday night against the Scarlets."

Form: The Scarlets had a horrible campaign last season, losing six out of six pool matches against eventual tournament runners-up Racing 92, Northampton Saints and Glasgow Warriors. They head into this clash on the back of a three-match winning streak – against Connacht, Treviso and the Dragons. Sale Sharks are currently in seventh place in the Premiership and suffered a 30-3 loss to Bath in their most recent match. 

The teams:

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

Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Will Addison, 12 Sam James, 11 Paolo Odogwu, 10 Dan Mugford, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Josh Beaumont (c), 7 David Seymour, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Jonathan Mills, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 James Flynn, 17 Halani Aulika, 18 Andrei Ostrikov, 19 Magnus Lund, 20 Tom Curry, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Sam Bedlow, 23 Nev Edwards


Date: Saturday, October 15
Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Kick-off: 20:45 BST (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)