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Preview: Dragons v Scarlets

19th September 2013 11:28

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Jonathan Davies Scarlets HEC 2012

Jon Davies: First start for Scarlets this season

The Scarlets will field eight senior internationals in their starting XV for Friday's derby against the Dragons at Rodney Parade.

British and Irish Lions centre Jonathan Davies who came off the bench last weekend at his home ground of Parc y Scarlets gets his first start of the season alongside fellow centre Scott Williams to bring a proven international centre partnership to the Scarlets attack.

Scottish international back row John Barclay gets his first start in a Scarlets shirt at openside along with captain Rob McCusker and Aaron Shingler in the back row.

And after an impressive and commanding night with the boot against Treviso recording a 100% kicking record, versatile back Steven Shingler moves from centre to full-back for the derby with pace and strike power on both wings in the shape of Wales international Liam Williams and Wales U20 World Championship star Jordan Williams.

Head Coach Simon Easterby said while the depth of his squad was not comparable to some of the clubs in the league; the versatility of his back line was a positive for the region.

"We've got a number of talented players in our backs who can readily adapt to different positions on the field; it's important that we get as much quality and experience on the field as possible and we'll work with different combinations to suit our game plan."

Scarlets have won five of their last six contests against fellow Welsh Regions in all competitions. Scarlets have won their last ten fixtures against Dragons in the RaboDirect PRO12 since Dragons were victorious 15-13 at Rodney Parade on New Year's Day 2008.

Although the Scarlets have an impressive record against the Dragons in recent seasons, Easterby pointed out his players were not looking back to previous successes and would take nothing for granted.

"We want to uphold our strong Welsh derby record and these players know how vital it is to us to get a good result at Rodney Parade," he added.

They also are fully aware of the challenge that poses us with in front of a vocal home support in Newport.

The Dragons will come out with confidence and want to back up two good performances in front of their home crowd. Hopefully we'll have a good travelling support as well.

"The derbies always have an extra edge to them and with Lyn (Jones) and Kingsley (Jones) on board in Newport now we know how well-prepared and up for this game their players will be.

"It'll be a high intensity and physical game and the Scarlets are looking forward to the contest.

"It's great to have the added motivation of a Welsh derby so early in the season. Hopefully with decent conditions, it'll be a good night and platform for Welsh regional rugby."

Meanwhile, the Dragons' own Lions stalwart Toby Faletau returns to the team for his first run out at Rodney Parade this season.

The number eight, who has recently signed to stay with the men of Gwent until 2016, is joined in the back row by Jevon Groves and Lewis Evans.

On stepping into the role of open side flanker Evans said: "Versatility is key now for me. There is a slightly different emphasis on when you do play seven. I just need to have the number seven jersey in mind but it's all about being able to adapt."

"We like to test ourselves against our Welsh counterparts as its good to see where we are and to also try and get rid of the fourth region tag. I think that this game is massive for us to keep developing.

"Now we are at home we want to make Rodney Parade a fortress and we just need to keep going in the right direction, with Lyn (Jones) steering us.

"Lyn's biggest thing here is changing the mindset of players, you could see that when we played Ulster, but last season that winning mentality wasn't here and Lyn has come here and changed my mindset along with the youngsters like Jack and has had an immediate impact as we have beaten one of the top sides in Europe."

Also included in the squad is Tom Prydie who steps back into open side wing after a slight ankle injury he incurred against Ulster. We also see a new centre pairing in Ross Wardle and U20's International Jack Dixon, as Pat Leach is out with an injury.

Skipper Andrew Coombs has also been named in the second row alongside youngster Matthew Screech, who makes his third start of the 2013/14 season.

Form: The Dragons' last five matches have all been won by the home side on the day. Dragons are going for a third successive victory at Rodney Parade in the competition for the first time since April 2011. The Men from Gwent lost all six PRO12 encounters last season against fellow Welsh regions. Scarlets 26-10 home win over Treviso on Saturday ended a three game losing run. Scarlets have won five of their last six contests against fellow Welsh regions in all competitions. Scarlets have won their last ten fixtures against Dragons in the RaboDirect PRO12 since Dragons were victorious 15-13 at Rodney Parade on New Year's Day 2008.

The teams:

Dragons: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Ross Wardle, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Toby Faletau. 7 Lewis Evans, 6 Jevon Groves, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Andrew Coombs (c), 3 Francisco Chaparro, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Gustafson, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Dan Way, 19 Rob Sidoli, 20 Netani Talei, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Kris Burton, 23 Adam Hughes.

Scarlets: 15 Steve Shingler, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Jordan Williams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Rob McCusker (capt), 7 John Barclay, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 George Earle, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Richard Kelly, 20 Josh Turnbull, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Nic Reynolds, 23 Gareth Owen.

Date: Friday, September 20
Kick-off: 19:05 BST
Venue: Rodney Parade
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Ian Davies (Wales), Jon Mason (Wales)
Television match official: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)

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