The Scarlets host Leinster at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday (KO 6.30pm) in the RaboDirect PRO12 league with the home side looking to put in a big performance to mark their 5000th game.
After a frustrating weekend out in Munster, the Scarlets have vowed to come back stronger in front of a busy home crowd on Saturday with the next three games being seen as crucial as the team regains momentum in its league campaign after a competitive start.
Back to the starting line-up comes 22-year-old Scarlets centre Nick Reynolds, who was a stand-out player in Llanelli RFC’s Premiership league title win last season, including scoring a sensational hatrick to get Llanelli into the Premiership final.
After an impressive performance against an experienced Munster side, the Scarlets’ exciting new 19 year-old full-back Dale Ford gets another start at 15. A former Scarlets Academy player, Ford showed his ability with the boot at a blustery Musgrave Park with some great kicking form including making penalty from the halfway line.
Andy Fenby and Lee Williams take up position on the wing and in the pack Emyr Phillips is back in the front row alongside Rhys Thomas and captain Iestyn Thomas who notched up his 200th Scarlets appearance last weekend.
In the back row, Josh Turnbull is not available through injury (shoulder) with Johnathan Edwards lining up alongside Ben Morgan and Rob McCusker. Lou Reed (knee injury) is replaced in the second row by Aaron Shingler.
Scarlets team against Leinster, Saturday 24h September 6.30pm kick off Parc y Scarlets: 15 Dale Ford, 14 Lee Williams, 13 Nick Reynolds 12 Gareth Maule, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Dan Newton, 9 Ruki Tipuna, 1 Iestyn Thomas (capt), 2 Emyr Phillips, 3 Rhys Thomas, 4 Aaron Shingler 5 Dominic Day, 6 Rob McCusker, 7 Johnathan Edwards, 8 Ben Morgan.
Replacements: Craig Hawkins, Phil John, Rhodri Jones, Damian Welch, Richie Pugh, Gareth Davies, Aled Thomas, Liam Williams.
Not available for selection through injury: Daniel Evans, full back (broken finger), Aled Davies, scrum half (knee) and Nick Reynolds, centre (ankle).
Scarlets Head Coach Nigel Davies said: “It is very important we respect our heritage, it’s a big part of what we are, it sets our values going forward. We’re proud of our history it’s what we all belong to and the best way to respect that is to put in a big performance on Saturday.”
Davies knows the weight and responsibility of Scarlets history as well as anyone. As a Scarlets player put in 498 apperances for Llanelli, played in a record nine Welsh cup finals and scored 115 tries in his regional career – one of only 21 players to have scored 100 tries for the club.
He said: “Scarlets rugby is a big part of this area and most of the boys with us now have been brought up in this region, so know what it means and the responsibility to the jersey. It’s an important game, not just because of the occasion but we want to put in a big performance as we dropped off our standards last week and that frustrated these players. This week has all been about moving on being positive about the game in front of us.
“We know Leinster have some strong key players in back line and made some quality overseas signings who can cause a lot of damage and we will have to deal with those threats. I’m confident our boys will bounce back strongly this weekend.”
Davies added that former 58-cap Wales front row international and former Swansea captain Garin Jenkins has joined the region this week part-time to assist with mentoring and scrummaging over the short-term as part of the coaching set-up.
Known as one of the great scrummagers of all time, Jenkins has since coached Aberavon RFC as well as providing coaching assistance at the Ospreys Academy and Wales U20s. Davies said that Jenkins’ experience, energy and mentoring ability with a number of the Scarlets’ young front row players would be a positive for the group.
Davies added: “It’s great to have someone of Garin’s experience adding some specific support to this group of young players. The set-piece is so important at the top level of the game – it’s where we have been caught out before in Europe, and so we’ll do whatever we can to strengthen that area."