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Rees not captain but still a leader

Guinness PRO12 Editor

30 Jul 2012

Part of the collateral of Nigel Davies’s summer departure from the Scarlets saw that Matthew Rees would no longer captain the side but the hooker insists his switch to the supporting cast carries just as much responsibility.

Instead of Rees, new head coach Simon Easterby opted for blindside flanker Rob McCusker – who plies his trade in the same position as the Irishman did in his seven seasons at the Scarlets – as his captain for the 2012-13 season.

But the extent of the Scarlets’ ambitions means it will be all hands to pump for the club’s senior players as they aim to score their first silverware since winning the Celtic League in May 2004 – a couple of months prior to Rees’ arrival at Stradey Park.

Since then, there has been a Heineken Cup semi-final loss to Leicester in 2007 and a change of scene in the club’s move to the Parc y Scarlets in 2008, but no trophies.

Last season the Llanelli-based club missed out on qualifying for the RaboDirect PRO12 semi-finals by three points to Glasgow but for Rees it was an all too familiar story and they have finished fifth three times in the last five seasons.

And Rees, who started pre-season training on Monday, is champing at the bit to find that extra win over the 22-game campaign to ensure that the club have something to genuinely fight for at the end – and he doesn’t mind letting McCusker lead the way.

“It’s a great honour to captain any team but to captain the Scarlets was really special for me,” said Rees, 31.

“But I’m still one of the more senior players at the club. Stephen Jones has moved on, Lou Reed and Dom Day as well so I’ve got a key role to play in the team in supporting Rob and I just want to make sure I’m there for him.

“I’ve only just started pre-season but at some stage I will sit down with Rob and give him a bit of information on what I have learnt in terms of captaincy.

“I am pretty sure he has got his own objectives but I’m very close to Rob and I’ll help him in any way I can – he only has to pick up the phone.

“It’s a massive season for us and we really want to win some silverware.

“The last time we got close to achieving anything was in the 2007 Heineken Cup but we lost toLeicester in the semis.”

The Scarlets’ recent dearth in silverware hasn’t hurt as much as it might as the club’s fans have been kept on the edge of their seat by the team’s attack-minded approach.

Talisman Jones is the only significant loss to their backline and with the likes of George North, Morgan Stoddart and Jonathan Davies to call upon the Scarlets should still threaten any side in theRaboDirect PRO12 next season.

But Rees has called on his teammates to stop being talked about as a team for the future and instead turn potential into prizes.

“We’ve had it wrong in terms of playing against the big teams in the past, we just need to win something,” he added.

“We’ve got results but come the end of the season we’ve not had any play-offs to contest, it’s pretty frustrating because we’ve got a team capable of doing really well but it’s been a long time since we actually won silverware.

“We’ve been harking on about developing the players we have used – that excites for a while but it’s about living it – we’ve got to put pressure on ourselves to achieve.”