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Preview: Scarlets v Connacht

28th March 2014 11:54

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SKY_MOBILE Pat Lam

Pleased boss: Pat Lam

Connacht head coach Pat Lam has named an unchanged side for the province's PRO12 trip to take on the Scarlets on Sunday.

Hooker Jason Harris-Wright will earn his 40th Connacht cap, starting in a front row with Denis Buckley and last week's try scorer Rodney Ah You.

Galway man John Muldoon, who has touched down for four tries in the last two games, will captain the side from the back row.

23-year-old Eoin Griffin made an impressive 21 tackles against the Dragons last week and will again partner Dave McSharry in the centre as the team look to record their fifth successive win in the competition.

"Being able to put out the same team for the third fixture in a row is testament to the performance of those players selected," said Lam.

"The recent team performances have been driven by huge competition for places within the squad. Our training has certainly gone up another level in the last number of weeks and we have some experienced and quality players in key positions all pushing hard for a starting place.

"It makes selection tough in one way but it is also great to see the guys named striving to perform on behalf of the entire squad."

Meanwhile, Scarlets are bolstered both up front and in the backs, with a number of the region's international stars back on home soil.

With only five fixtures remaining in the regular PRO12 season, and four of the five home ties for the Scarlets, the West Wales region will be targeting a victory in the crucial clash against Connacht on Mother's Day.

"What's advantageous to us is that we're playing four of our five remaining games at home and it's in our hands to make the top six," said head coach Simon Easterby.

"We should be confident in the ability that we have here that we've got what it takes to achieve that."

Returning international Ken Owens, Rhodri Jones and Jake Ball add weight up front whilst Rhys Priestland, Liam Williams and Jonathan Davies, who'll captain the side in Rob McCusker's absence, all bring in experience to the backline.

"Despite coping reasonably well during the Six Nations campaign the quality the boys bring to the table now is important. This week is about putting in the performance and we've had a little more time together to prepare and for the players to get back into their patterns," added Easterby.

"The likes of Rhys and Jon have a lot of responsibility in terms of performance, they'll be able to lead us through the last five games; there are plenty of positives still to come!"

Form: Scarlets have slipped to successive PRO12 losses, away at Ulster and at Glasgow. The Welshmen have won their last three matches in all tournaments at Parc y Scarlets.

Connacht have won their last four PRO12 matches and climbed from 12th to 7th spot in the table in the process. Another victory would equal their best ever run in the competition set way back in 2002.

Scarlets have won their last four encounters against Connacht, whilst the Irish province's most recent victory in Llanelli came in October 2004 at the old Stradey Park.

The teams:

Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Kristian Phillips, 13 Jonathan Davies (c), 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Jordan Williams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Sione Timani, 7 John Barclay, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Johan Snyman, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Rhodri Jones, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Phil John
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Richard Kelly, 20 Lewis Rawlins, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Gareth Maule

Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Eoghan Masterson, 6 John Muldoon, 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Aly Muldowney, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Nathan White, 19 Michael Swift, 20 Andrew Browne, 21 Frank Murphy, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Darragh Leader

Date: Sunday 30th March
Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Kick-off: 1405 (local & GMT)
Referee: Neil Paterson (Sco)
Assistant referees: Wayne Davies, Martyn Lewis (both Wal)
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wal)

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Pool 3
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PosTeamPPts
1Toulon28
2Leicester Tigers14
3Ulster21
4Scarlets10