The Scarlets will be looking to home and a supportive Parc y Scarlets crowd on Thursday evening as they face a vital game against Treviso in their RaboDirect PR012 top four ambitions.
Having won their last five league games at home at Parc y Scarlets, the West Wales region will be looking to extend winning ways and their best home run since moving to the new stadium in 2008.
The Scarlets narrowly lost their hold on their last two games on the away circuit in recent weeks with a nail-biting finish away at the RDS in Leinster last weekend so it’s a big welcome home after three matches on the road in the past month.
The Scarlets also welcome back a number of their Wales internationals – providing a strong bench to draw upon for Thursday night’s fixture; with Liam Williams (wing), Lou Reed (second row), Aaron Shingler (back row) and Rhodri Jones (Prop) all back in Scarlets shirts.
Benetton Treviso’s only victory in their last eight matches in all tournaments was 37-14 over Italian rivals Aironi on New Year’s Eve. Treviso have won three times on the road this season, at Glasgow, Ulster and Connacht. Benetton have not been victorious in Wales since December 2007, when they beat the Dragons 24-22 at Rodney Parade.
Treviso won 20-10 at the Stadio Monigo in round five of the RaboDirect PRO12, and have won two of the three previous fixtures against Scarlets in this tournament.
Scarlets team against Benetton Treviso Thursday 23rd February 2012 kick off 7.35pm, Parc y Scarlets: 15 Dan Newton, 14 Lee Williams, 13 Gareth Maule (capt), 12 Adam Warren, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Gareth Davies, 1 Phil John 2 Emyr Phillips , 3 Deacon Manu, 4 Dominic Day, 5 Damian Welch, 6 Josh Turnbull, 7 Johnathan Edwards, 8 Kieran Murphy.
Replacements: 16 Craig Hawkins, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Peter Edwards, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Aaron Shingler, 21 Liam Davies, 22 Nick Reynolds, 23 Liam Williams.
Head of Rugby Nigel Davies said: “It was tough on the players last week at the RDS, that was a hard-fought, physical game and we competed against them very well. It always going to swing on a couple of key moments, unfortunately it was a really tough call in the end and I was really disappointed for the players they put their all into that performance.
“It was hard to be too critical of them as they did exactly what we asked of them – to go there and compete and we were on even terms throughout that game. We take a lot out of that performance and will bring that level of commitment and passion into this must-win game on Thursday night.”
Davies said that while the Scarlets would need to win six of their seven remaining games to contend for a play-off place – with the balance of their remaining fixtures at home and with a good home record there was everything to play for.
He said: “If we look at our points tally against the same teams last season, we’re a point ahead and we know that we have to win all our home games and two on the road. We know our targets and there are opportunities for this team to nail some vital games and the next two at home against Treviso and then Connacht next week are key for our ambitions. It’s about getting a winning platform and taking on from there.”
And the Scarlets will not be taking the arrival of their Italian visitors lightly – after being beaten by the Italian side early in the season away they know that Treviso pose a threat up front and put pressure on the set-piece.
“They’re a good team with a big forward pack and play percentage rugby; we just have to make sure our set piece functions well and build our game holding onto the ball and going through phases. We know them well and know what to expect.”
Davies said the boost of the internationals released back to the Scarlets would make for a strong bench. He said: “It’s great to have some of our international players back but they haven’t trained with us and with greater competition now for places it’s the right decision to have an effective and high impact bench – as it’s been another short turnaround for us with a Thursday night game.”
Scarlets Captain Gareth Maule said: “Thursday night is a must win for us – the boys know that and we’ll be giving them the same respect as Leinster. It’s good to be back home and having won our last five league games at home, we want to retain a good home record and see it as a way to repay the support we get from our Scarlets supporters which is always fantastic. The boys are looking forward to playing at home again in front of our crowd.
“We want to build on that and make that a run of seven home league wins over the next couple of weeks. We know that we can’t afford to slip up now and we need to concentrate on a victory on Thursday evening which will not be an easy game for us – they have a big set of forwards and good kicking backs.
“But there’s plenty of character in this side and we showed that last weekend – yes there’s a bit of pressure on but we’re certainly not panicking at all and know we’re one point ahead of where we were last season.”