Preview: Scarlets v Toulon

Date published: December 16 2016

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac has made five changes to the side that took to the field at the Stade Felix Mayol last Sunday.

The Scarlets suffered a 31-20 defeat in what was a thrilling European Rugby Champions Cup clash against three-times champions Toulon and will be looking for a change of fortunes at the Parc this Sunday.

Pivac has named an unchanged backline, which includes full-back Liam Williams who made his 100th regional appearance at the Stade Felix Mayol last weekend, but has made five changes, one positional, to the pack in a starting line-up that includes eleven internationally capped players.

The international front-row of Rob Evans, Ken Owens and Samson Lee are reunited as the props make a return to the starting line-up for the first time this season and for the first time since the second round of the Champions Cup respectively.

24-year-old Tadhg Beirne moves from the blindside flank to the second-row alongside international lock Jake Ball. Aaron Shingler makes a return to the starting line-up having missed last weekend’s clash in the South of France due to the birth of his second child and Will Boyde, who celebrated his 22nd birthday yesterday, gets the nod on the openside with James Davies serving a three-week ban.

Speaking ahead of the return leg of the back-to-back fixtures against Toulon head coach Pivac said; “We know what’s ahead of us this week. There’s a lot to play for. You don’t get to play these sides that often and when you do it’s a great challenge. The players love these fixtures.

“To have a side like Toulon at home is going to be great. We’d like to right the wrongs of last week. At times I felt we were unlucky in that game. We know what to expect now. For us it’s about getting a good start, not lagging behind like we did out there. If we get a good start I think the self-belief will be there and it could be a hell of a day at the office. We’re looking forward to it.

“It is an exciting challenge. The players are looking forward to it because they get to test themselves against some of the best players in the world that they don’t get to play against that often.”

Meanwhile, Toulon have made a few changes for their clash with the Scarlets with South African powerhouse Duane Vermeulen coming back into the squad.

All of Toulon’s changes are in the forward pack with the front-row getting a minor tweak as Levan Chilachava replaces Marcel Van Der Merwe in the three jersey.

In the second-row Jocelino Suta drops to the bench with Georgian star Mamuka Gorgodze swapping the seven jersey with the four jersey and former Springbok Juandre Kruger taking Gorgodze’s place in the back-row. Vermeulen at eight is the only other change.

Form: Toulon are in second place – behind Saracens – on the Pool 3 table with nine points from their three matches while Scarlets are five points adrift in third place. The French side proved to strong for the Welsh region in last weekend’s corresponding fixture and claimed a 31-20 win at Stade Félix Mayol. Prior to that, they kicked off their campaign with an impressive home win against Sale Sharks but came unstuck in their next match at Saracens. Toulon, meanwhile, suffered a home defeat against Sarries in Round One but bounced back with victories over Sale Sharks and Scarlets in their next fixtures.

The teams:

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

Toulon: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 James O’Connor, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Pierre Bernard, 9 Jonathan Pelissie, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Juandre Kruger, 6 Charles Ollivon, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Mamuka Gorgodze, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Xavier Chiocci
Replacements: 16 Jean-Charles Orioli, 17 Florian Fresia, 18 Marcel Van Der Merwe, 19 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 20 Jocelino Suta, 21 Maxime Mermoz, 22 Eric Escande, 23 Samu Manoa

Date: Sunday, December 18
Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Kick-off: 13:00 GMT
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant Referees: JP Doyle (England), Andrew Jackson (England)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)