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Preview: Scarlets v Dragons

07th November 2013 13:07

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Rob McCusker

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Scarlets captain Rob McCusker will be back in the number eight shirt and leading his region in the first round of the LV= Cup against the Dragons.

McCusker who has been sidelined for the past month with a calf injury will lead a Scarlets team that mixes senior experience with plenty of fresh new talent looking to take opportunities on the regional stage.

The Scarlets open their LV= Cup campaign with a big home draw against the Dragons and with it the opportunity to settle scores after a nail-biting finish in their opening Welsh derby of the season at Rodney Parade.

Head Coach Simon Easterby has handed the number 10 jersey to Aled Thomas after a composed performance last weekend as replacement for the injured Steven Shingler - helping kick the Scarlets to a significant victory against a strong Ulster side.

In the backline, the strong centre partnership of Gareth Maule and Adam Warren will be hoping for better conditions than last weekend so they can get more ball, along with experienced full back Gareth Owen and bright young talent Jordan Williams and Llandovery's Chris Knight on the wings.

Easterby opts to rest some of his pack after an intense and physical past six weeks in both their Heineken Cup and PRO12 league campaigns, with Phil John, Josh Turnbull, George Earle, Jake Ball and Samson Lee given a break from play this weekend.

The shake-up in selection hands opportunities for a group of wider Scarlets players eager to put in big performances for their region after working hard with their Premiership clubs. Fresh starts are handed to scrum half Aled Davies, props Shaun Hopkins and Rhodri Jones, second row Richard Kelly, and young back row talent Dan Thomas.

Meanwhile, Dragons director of rugby Lyn Jones has made thirteen changes to the starting XV of last week including the academy players Joe Davies, Tyler Morgan and Scott Matthews who all make their first starts for the men of Gwent.

Forwards Jevon Groves and Adam Jones remain in the team from last week. Lock Jones, who is joined in the second-row with academy player Joe Davies, will also take on the responsibility of captain.

As for the rest of the team, Dan Evans makes his ninth start this season as full-back. Wingers Will Harries and Tyler Morgan have also been named and the centre paring takes on the form of Ashley Smith, who makes his first start of the season, and young gun Matthew Pewtner.

International fly-half Kris Burton then takes on the number 10 shirt whilst Wayne Evans starts at scrum-half.

Aaron Coundley will also get his first start of the season and he is joined in the front-row by hooker Elliot Dee and International prop Francisco Chaparro. The back-row is maintained by Jevon Groves and youngsters Scott Matthews and Ieuan Jones.

The bench is made up of Hugh Gustafson, Nathan Williams, Nathan Buck, Rob Sidoli, Netani Talei, Luc Jones, Rhys Jones, Ashton Hewitt.

The teams:

Scarlets: 15 Gareth Owen, 14 Jordan Williams, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Chris Knight, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Rob McCusker (capt), 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Craig Price, 5 Richard Kelly, 4 Johan Synman, 3 Rhodri Jones, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Shaun Hopkins.
Replacements: 16 Darran Harris, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Ben Leung, 19 Carwyn Jones, 20 James Davies, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Josh Lewis, 23 Kristian Phillips.

Dragons: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Will Harries, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Matthew Pewtner, 10 Kris Burton, 9 Wayne Evans, 8 Ieuan Jones, 7 Scott Matthews, 6 Jevon Groves, 5 Adam Jones (c), 4 Joe Davies, 3 Francisco Chaparro, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Aaron Coundley.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Gustafson, 17 Nathan Williams, 18 Nathan Buck, 19 Rob Sidoli, 20 Netani Talei, 21 Luc Jones, 22 Rhys Jones, 23 Ashton Hewitt.

Date: Friday, November 8
Kick-off: 19:30 GMT
Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Chris Williams (Wales), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

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