Preview: Scarlets v Ulster

Date published: September 5 2014

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac has named a strong squad for his side's opening clash in the Pro12 at Parc y Scarlets

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac has named a strong squad for his side's opening clash in the Pro12 at Parc y Scarlets.

The Scarlets begin the campaign at home for the fourth competitive season as they welcome Ulster.

Pivac's side will look to secure a solid start to the campaign as they face strong opposition in the opening two rounds; against last season's semi finalists Ulster and champions Leinster.

Pivac has named a strong side for the opening clash with no less than 12 internationals in the staring XV as well as last weekend's man of the match number eight Rory Pitman, South African lock Johan Snyman and Scarlets' scrum cornerstone Phil John.

“Ulster have been a quality side for a number of years and have been in a constant in the play-offs in recent years,” said Pivac.

“We'd like to improve on our 6th place, to do that we have to be able to compete against the Ulster's and Leinster's of the competition on a weekly basis. There's no better team to have first up at home.

“I'm very much looking forward to the first competitive game of the season at home, here at Parc y Scarlets.

“The boys have done a lot of hard work and we've seen a couple of good runs against Bath and Gloucester – we don't read too much into the pre-season but it is encouraging and the guys are looking forward to getting back out there.

“I'm looking forward to this weekend for a number of reasons.”

Meanwhile, Louis Ludik, Franco van der Merwe and Wiehahn Herbst will make their competitive debuts for Ulster.

The Province travel to Wales to take on a Scarlets side who beat Gloucester last weekend and who have a squad packed full of internationals.

Ludik, who joined Ulster this off-season, starts the game at full-back. Michael Allen is selected on the right wing with Jared Payne and Stuart Olding picked in the centre. 

Craig Gilroy starts on the left wing with Ian Humphreys and Paul Marshall maintaining their partnership in the half-backs. 

Up front, Callum Black starts at loosehead, Rob Herring, who won his first cap for Ireland in June, is selected at hooker and new addition, Herbst, is named at tighthead. 

Ireland's Dan Tuohy and Springbok Franco van der Merwe are paired in the second row, while there is an all Ireland international back-row with Robbie Diack, Chris Henry starting either side of captain Roger Wilson.

John Andrew is selected among the substitutes and is set for his first competitive appearance for Ulster.

Ireland international Luke Marshall and IRUPA Players' Player of the Season for 2013/14, Andrew Trimble, are also selected on the bench.

Form: Scarlets begin their campaign with a home game at Parc y Scarlets for a fourth successive year, but will not want a repeat of last season's opening fixture when Leinster won 42-19. The Welshmen have won four of their last five matches in the competition, the defeat being 13-17 to Cardiff Blues at Millennium Stadium on 'Judgement Day'. Scarlets have won all six home games they have played in the Pro12 in 2014. Ulster's only victory in their last four Pro12 matches was 19-17 away at Munster in round 22. In the 2013/14 campaign Ulster's only victory on their four trips to Wales came when they visited Ospreys in round 5. In their last six encounters Scarlets' solo victory over the Ulstermen came in this equivalent fixture in round 7 last season.

The teams:

Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Harry Robinson, 13 Regan King, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Michael Tagicakibau, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Rory Pitman, 7 John Barclay, 6 Rob McCusker, 5 Johan Snyman, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Rhodri Jones, 2 Ken Owens (c), 1 Phil John
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Peter Edwards, 19 Richard Kelly, 20 Aaron Shingler, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Gareth Owen

Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Michael Allen, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Stuart Olding, 11 Chris Gilroy, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Roger Wilson (c), 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Louis Stevenson, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Luke Marshall, 23 Andrew Trimble.

Date: Saturday, September 6
Venue: Parc Y Scarlets
Kickoff: 14.40
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Ian Davies (Wales), Jon Mason (Wales)
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)