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Preview: Scarlets v Aironi

02nd September 2011 08:24

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Iestyn Thomas

Thomas: Taking charge

Scarlets will have to make do without ten internationals when they welcome Aironi to Parc y Scarlets in the opening round of the RaboDirect PRO12.

Added to their international absentees, the Welsh outfit are without the services of skipper Matthew Rees and vice-captain Gareth Maule who are recovering from neck and shoulder surgery respectively. Iestyn Thomas will lead the team.

"We knew we'd lose a lot of our quality and X-factor from our group to the World Cup - particularly in the back line, which is why we've brought in some new players as well as creating opportunities for our young Welsh talent," explained Head Coach Nigel Davies.

"Players like Rhodri Gomer-Davies, Aled Thomas and Rhys Jones who've joined us this summer have experience of big games and they have shown-up well in pre-season and are eager and relishing the fresh opportunities being presented to them in a Scarlets shirt."

Aironi are still looking for their first away win in European competition and Davies is wary of the Italian outfit.

"Aironi undoubtedly will see this is a good time to play us and targeting this game with so many of our quality players away - but we're comfortable with that. We know they've worked hard on their mindset to create winning performances," he said.

"However, we've prepared well and worked very hard in our pre-season and the boys know they are going to have to show great intensity in their performance on Sunday and deliver on the day."

Italian teams have garnered criticism for fielding too many foreigners, but the Aironi side heading to Wales certainly has a a very local feel to it with Naas Oliver and Nick Williams the only foreigners in the starting XV.

Full-back Ruggero Trevisan will be making his top level debut for Aironi while Roberto Quartaroli returns to action for the first time since suffering a serious injury in the second week of last season.

"We are ready to go," sade Head Coach Rowland Phillips.

"We will be a difficult challenge against a quality team, but we worked hard all summer to be ready for this event. We know that the Scarlets are a quality team. It will be an important test for us, but a challenge that we are excited to address. Last year was a real disappointment in Llanelli, we picked one of the toughest defeats of the season. It will be interesting to see how much we have improved during a years "

Form: Scarlets won both previous encounters with Aironi last campaign. Scarlets finished off last season with successive wins over Glasgow and the Blues, and won three of their last four matches at Parc y Scarlets. The Welshmen's only previous loss to an Italian team was 28-34 in Treviso in round one last year. Aironi Rugby are yet to record an away victory in any tournament since they were formed twelve months ago. The Italians slipped to eight losses in eight matches against Welsh opponents during their maiden season, and will hope to end the sequence in this RaboDirect PRO12 showdown.

The teams:

Scarlets: 15 Daniel Evans, 14 Lee Williams, 13 Rhodri Gomer-Davies 12 Aled Thomas, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Dan Newton, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Rob McCusker, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Aaron Shingler, 3 Rhys Thomas, 2 Emyr Phillips, 1 Iestyn Thomas (capt).
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Phil John, 18 Simon Gardiner, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Richie Pugh, 21 Justin James, 22 Rhys Jones, 23 Adam Warren.

Aironi: 15 Ruggero Trevisan, 14 Riccardo Pavan, 13 Roberto Quartaroli, 12 Gabriel Pizarro, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Nicola Cattini, 6 Josh Sole, 5 George Biagi, 4 Joshua Furno, 3 Luke Redolfini, 2 Roberto Santamaria (cap), 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 David Giazzon, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Fabio Staibano, 19 Filippo Ferrarini, 20 Frans Viljoen, 21 George Bronzini, 22 Alberto Benettini, 23 Gilberto Pavan

Date: Sunday, September 4
Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Kick-off: 16:00 (15:00 GMT)
Referee: Andrew McMenemy
Assistant Referees: Neil Hennessy, Greg Morgan
TMO: Tony Rowlands

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Pool 4
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1Clermont Auvergne624
2Harlequins616
3Scarlets611
4Racing Metro Paris67