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Preview: Scarlets v Ulster

01st November 2013 10:08

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phil john scarlets

Phil John: Scarlets captain

The Scarlets have made six changes to their starting XV to face Ulster in the Saturday's PRO12 clash at Parc y Scarlets.

With seven of the Scarlets squad on international duty, Gareth Owen returns to full fitness at full-back. There is a new centre partnership in place with Gareth Maule and Adam Warren joining up in place of Jon Davies and Scott Williams.

Jordan Williams returns to the wing after overcoming a minor shoulder sprain, Kirby Myhill gets a start at hooker with Ken Owens and Emyr Phillips away with Wales and Samson Lee returns to tight head prop after a two-week suspension.

In the back row, Josh Turnbull moves to seven with Sione Timani in at number eight with captain Rob McCusker still on the side-lines with a calf injury. International flanker John Barclay returns from intense training all week with Scotland and is on the bench.

Experienced Scarlets prop Phil John is handed the honour of captaining the team on his 270th appearance for the West Wales region.

"The next few weeks hands important opportunities to many of our wider squad players who are energised and eager to prove themselves - particularly in front of a home crowd," explained Scarlets head coach Simon Easterby.

"It's good for us to have such a big game this weekend at home on the back of a disappointing performance out in Italy last weekend and the players will be looking to settle the record books.

"We know we'll have to be really accurate, Ulster are tough opponents and with the quality they have built into their side, they are still very competitive even during international phases in the season.

"They are very well-coached and have shown their ability in the last few weeks in Europe both home and away and still got a result against Cardiff Blues last time out following on from the highs of the previous weeks. That shows their class and we're well aware of certain individuals in their team and what they bring.

"They have some real quality throughout the spine of their team and that depth becomes apparent now in the next few weeks; while the balance of some squads can be really disrupted with international call-ups."

Easterby added that the Scarlets will look to get more of a platform from their set-piece play on Saturday night which had been missing against Zebre.

"The disruption to our pack with international call-ups has not been quite as severe as our back line and we've had some consistency in forwards selection over recent weeks so hopefully that will be a good foundation for us."

Meanwhile, Ulster boss Mark Anscombe, has made eight personnel changes and three positional switches to the team that recorded a bonus point win over Cardiff last Friday.

Eight Ulster players are away on international duty, but Andrew Trimble and Roger Wilson were released by Ireland for the game.

Johann Muller misses the match having suffered a calf injury, so Jared Payne is named as captain, a role he last fulfilled in the pre-season win over Leinster.

He will start at full-back in place of Stuart Olding who is also unavailable as he sustained concussion in the game against Cardiff.

Trimble starts on the right wing with Michael Allen selected on the left. Darren Cave and Chris Farrell are paired in midfield, with Ruan Pienaar moving from scrumhalf to outhalf and Paul Marshall starting at 9.

In the front row, the only change sees Rob Herring picked at hooker with John Afoa and Callum Black selected either side.

There is a whole new second-row with Lewis Stevenson and Neil McComb starting, while in the back row, Roger Wilson moves from the back of the scrum to openside, Robbie Diack keeps his place at blindside and Nick Williams returns at number eight.

Form: Scarlets' 16-all draw in Parma on Fridaywas their second in succession, following the 26-all tie at home to Racing Metro in the European Cup. Scarlets have won just one home game since April: 26-10 over Treviso on September 14. The Welshmen have been defeated in their last three clashes with Irish provinces. Ulster have won their last six fixtures in all competitions since Glasgow beat them 13-12 at Ravenhill Stadium on September 13. Ulster's only loss in their last six matches with Welsh regions was 8-15 to the Dragons at Rodney Parade in the opening round of the RaboDirect PRO12 this season. Scarlets' only victory over the Ulstermen since March 2010 was 24-17 at Parc y Scarlets in October 2011.

The teams:

Scarlets:15 Gareth Owen, 14 Nick Reynolds, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Jordan Williams, 10 Steve Shingler, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Sione Timani, 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 George Earle, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Phil John (c)
Replacements: 16 Darran Harris, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Johan Synman, 20 John Barclay, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Chris Knight.

Ulster:15 Jared Payne (c), 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Chris Farrell, 11 Michael Allen, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Roger Wilson, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Neil McComb, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Ricky Lutton, 19 Mike McComish, 20 Sean Doyle, 21 James McKinney, 22 Ricky Andrew, 23 David McIlwaine

Date: Saturday, November 2
Kick-off: 18:30
Venue: Parc y Scarlet
Referee: AAlain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Gwyn Morris, Andrew Davies (both Wales)
Citing commissioner: Aurwel Morgan (Wales)
Television match offial: Tim Hayes (Wales)

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