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Jones takes centre stage at his last game in Scarlets shirt

Guinness PRO12 Editor

4 May 2012

Stephen Jones will start at centre against the Cardiff Blues as he brings the curtain down on a Scarlets playing career spanning 15 seasons in front of a packed Parc y Scarlets stadium on Saturday evening.

Stephen Jones will start at centre against the Cardiff Blues as he brings the curtain down on a Scarlets playing career spanning 15 seasons in front of a packed Parc y Scarlets stadium on Saturday evening.

The eagerly-awaited big Welsh derby at Parc y Scarlets kicks off at 7.30pm to be watched by a full house at Parc y Scarlets with tickets for more than 11,000 of its 15,000 seats already sold this week. The Scarlets will be looking to retain their unbeaten record against Welsh regions this season and a big send-off for one of their most popular and committed Scarlets of recent decades.

Jones, the Scarlets all-time points record holder on 2850 points and 315 appearances in a Scarlets shirt still holds the record of most points scored in a league game (32) against Swansea in October 2002 – with 741 points in league games during his career.

The Scarlets also bid farewell to some Parc y Scarlets heroes of past seasons including Scottish international Sean Lamont, England number eight Ben Morgan, second rows Dominic Day and Lou Reed, full back Dan Evans as well as retiring front rowers, Iestyn Thomas and Rhys Thomas.

It’s set to be another big occasion in West Wales and if the clash between East and West isn’t enough there’s also the excitement of a play-off place still available to a winning Scarlets side if Connacht beat Glasgow at Firhill on Saturday night – so plenty to keep supporters on the edge of their seats.

Scarlets Head Coach Nigel Davies said: “This will be a hugely competitive fixture, it’s a local derby, and there’s lot of pride of stake for the players. We still have an outside chance of going through, but importantly, it’s the fact playing the Blues and we are very proud of our unbeaten record against Welsh regions this season so we want to maintain that.

“It will be an opportunity to see some great battles and duals on the pitch with the quality of a host of young players on show. It’s going to be a great finale for the season.

“This fixture highlights what’s good in regional rugby and in our game in Wales not only from those who have given so much to the regional game like Stephen Jones, but also the younger players who have cut their teeth on regional rugby.

“It’s a game that will celebrate what regional rugby in Wales is all about with rising Welsh players that don’t forget where they have come from and the club system that has supported them. I will show that the game overall is very healthy and while there are challenges for the regions we will work to resolve them because there’s a lot of positives in our game, and the quality of rugby and the performance on the field on Saturday will demonstrate that.”

On Stephen Jones’ last game, the Scarlets Head Coach said: “Stephen’s contribution has been immense, he’s instantly recognisable as one of the great Scarlets for what he has done and what he has achieved and for me he epitomises the modern 10 in every way.

The experienced 34 year-old outside half and star of Wales and the British Lions, who plays his first and last Scarlets competitive fixture against derby rivals in the East, Cardiff said it would be an emotional night but said the focus in training this week at Parc y Scarlets for the big game had taken his mind off what the evening will mean for him personally.

Jones said: “First and foremost this is a big challenge and will be a tough encounter, and the boys know that and we have to put in a big performance against a quality side. We’re just all really looking forward to it.

“I feel very privileged to have been part of this great club for so many years and particularly the new era – with a team that now has so many exciting new players coming through and achieving international honours. I hope I’ve been able to pass on some of my experience for the benefit of our future as a region and helped accelerate the transition of this squad in recent years.

“It’s been a huge part of my life being a Scarlet – starting when I was 18 and now leaving when I’m 34 and apart from a couple of years in France its where I’ve grown up as a rugby player. I’ve been delighted to be part of Scarlets Rugby throughout and it has been an honour to pull on the shirt every single time.

The Scarlets have suffered just one defeat at Parc y Scarlets in the RaboDirect PRO12 this season; 10-15 to Leinster in round four. The Scarlets have not lost to a fellow Welsh region in the PRO12 since they visited Ospreys on 27 December 2010.

Scarlets team against Cardiff Blues Saturday 5th May 2012 kick off 7.30pm at Parc y Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Nick Reynolds, 12 Stephen Jones, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 1 Rhodri Jones, 2 Ken Owens, 3 Deacon Manu, 4 Aaron Shingler, 5 Dominic Day, 6 Kieran Murphy, 7 Josh Turnbull (capt), 8 Ben Morgan.

Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Phil John, 18 Simon Gardiner, 19 Damian Welch, 20 Johnathan Edwards, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Adam Warren, 23 Viliame Iongi.

Leinster and Ospreys have already been assured of home play-offs, but their opponents are yet to be decided. Munster are guaranteed to finish in the top four, but whether that is in 3rd or 4th spot is still unknown, whilst the final Play-Off place is still up for grabs with Glasgow Warriors, Scarlets and Ulster still vying for the spot.

Glasgow Warriors are in pole position to claim the final Play-Off spot; 2 match points from their game against Connacht will extend their season into the knockout stages. Should they falter, Scarlets and Ulster will be keen to make up the numbers.

Ulster require a bonus point win and other results to go their way to progress and should Scarlets fail to pick up 5 match points from their game, then, dependant upon other results, the number of wins and even points difference could come into play to separate the teams.

Scarlets only win in their last four matches in all competitions was 26-23 in Aironi on 15 April. Scarlets have won their last four games against Cardiff Blues in all competitions, whilst the Blues only two previous wins on Llanelli soil both came in 2010 in the PRO12 and the Anglo-Welsh Cup.

Final tickets in the fourth East stand are now on sale. As well as an entertaining 80 minutes of rugby there'll be plenty of action and activity available in the Daioni Supporters Village from 4.30pm with the concourses opening at 6pm.

The Scarlets will pay tribute to the players that are leaving after the final whistle with a special presentation on the field.

Those not available for selection through injury are: Centre Gareth Maule sustained a broken finger against Brive and will be out for a minimum of six weeks; Scott Williams, centre (shoulder) failed a late fitness test, Jon Davies (groin) failed a late fitness test, Matthew Rees (hooker) has a sprained ankle sustained against Munster (out four weeks) George North (wing) failed a late fitness test on a groin injury, Sione Timani (second row) has a hamstring tear picked up against Munster.