Elias calls on Scarlets to close gap on Leinster

Andy Baber
10 August 2018

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Scarlets must close the gap on Guinness PRO14 champions Leinster if they are to reclaim the title in Glasgow next season, according to hooker Ryan Elias.

Ryan Elias leads out Scarlets

The Welsh region came within 80 minutes of defending their crown in the 2017/18 campaign, but were beaten 40-32 by the Irish province in the final at the Aviva Stadium.

Leinster’s victory saw them complete a historic double as they added the Guinness PRO14 title to their European Champions Cup crown, having beaten Scarlets in the semi-final.

And when asked what the goals are for Scarlets this season, Elias said the focus is fighting for silverware once again and finding a way to knock Leinster off their perch.

“We want more of the same really,” he said. “We want to be in the knockout stages of Europe, it’s a tough old competition and for us to get to the semis last year was good.

“But, to be fair, Leinster were the stronger team on both occasions in the semis [of Champions Cup] and the final [Guinness PRO14] and we want to close the gap on them.

“We want to get back to the finals in Europe and the Guinness PRO14 and then hopefully we can go one better than we did this year.”

The 23-year-old, who impressed on the summer tour in three Wales victories over South Africa and Argentina, is battling with Ken Owens for Scarlets and national side starting spots.

But despite spending more time on than he would have liked on the bench last season, Elias said he is happy to bide his time behind the British and Irish Lions hooker for now.

“It’s a plus to be competing with Ken,” he said. “He’s one of the best hookers in the world, a British and Irish Lion and a good leader, so you are learning from the best.

“We are both from Carmarthen, went to the same school and the same rugby club. He calls me his apprentice and it’s good to learn off him.

“He has a lot of time for me and I have a lot of time for him. There’s a respect between us. I’m happy at Scarlets and I think it works the way things are going.

“Hopefully I’ll get a bit more game time this year and play in the bigger games, but it is what it is and hopefully it’s a case of a change of guard when he wants to retire.

“I just want to be the best I can be. I have confidence in my ability and if I get to where I want to be playing the hopefully it will make it a harder decision for the coaches.

“The year before I had started the semis and the final when we won so this year I was on the bench and I’m just happy with whatever role I’m doing.

“Whether it’s the last 20, the last ten, then I’m just going to go out there and play to my best ability, but obviously I want to be starting all those games.”

And after impressing Warren Gatland on the summer tour, the 6ft 2ins, 17st 4Ib powerhouse is looking to kick on this season and put his case forward for the World Cup next year.

He added: “Looking at the end of next year you have the Rugby World Cup coming up, that’s a huge thing for me, but I just want to be happy in my performance.

“I didn’t think I had the best of seasons last year and I’m hoping to start well and just keep progressing throughout the year, taking a game-by-game mentality.

“Hopefully then I’ll get picked at the end of the year for the World Cup. There’s some good hookers out there so it’s no easy task but it’s something I want to do, want to try and achieve.”

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