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Preview: Scarlets v Edinburgh Rugby

Avatar Andy Baber 5 Apr 2019

With only three rounds to go, it’s now do-or-die for Scarlets and Edinburgh as the two sides battle it out for a place in the Guinness PRO14 Final Series.

Following the brief hiatus for European action, Scarlets welcome Edinburgh to Llanelli in Round 19 with two points separating them in Conference B.

What’s at stake?

It’s been a difficult season for Scarlets so far despite winning two of their last three Guinness PRO14 games, with the Welsh region currently struggling to make the Final Series.

They are trailing third-placed Benetton by five points and cannot afford to drop anymore ground when they take on their Scottish visitors, who are just two points better off.

Mathematically, Edinburgh have some leeway in the race for the end-of-season showdown but Scarlets could go above them with victory as the top three race nears its climax.

Edinburgh have the slightly better head-to-head record, with 16 wins to Scarlets’ 14, while they also won the last meeting between the two sides – prevailing 31-21 at BT Murrayfield in November.

Team news (Scarlets)

Scarlets will have the significant boost of being able to call on six of Wales’ Grand Slam-wining squad from the Guinness Six Nations to their starting line-up for Saturday’s clash.

Skipper Ken Owens, Rob Evans, Gareth Davies, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes and Steff Evans are all recalled to the team, which features eight changes from the defeat to Cardiff Blues last time out.

It means the hosts are able to field an all-Wales international front row with Owens and Evans joining up with Samson Lee after making an impact off the bench at Arms Park.

Will Boyde also gets the nod at blindside flanker alongside James Davies and Uzair Cassiem, while Gareth Davies and Dan Jones are reunited at half-back in place of Kieran Hardy and Rhys Patchell.

Team news (Edinburgh)

Edinburgh will also benefit from some added international experience as Scotland centre Mark Bennett returns to the starting line-up in place of the injured James Johnstone.

It is the only change made by Richard Cockerill to the starting XV that suffered defeat to Munster at BT Murrayfield in the Champions Cup quarter-final last weekend.

Darcy Graham is once again named at full-back, with Damien Hoyland and top try-scorer Duhan van der Merwe continuing on the wings and Chris Dean partnering Bennett in midfield.

Elsewhere, an unchanged front row sees captain Stuart McInally pack down alongside Pierre Schoeman and WP Nel, while Ben Toolis and Grant Gilchrist start in the second row.

Talking points

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac said: “We are still very much alive in the play-off race, that is the attitude of this group.

“The Cardiff Blues defeat has been put to bed and we are now looking forward to the challenge that Edinburgh will present.

“Edinburgh will pose a threat in the set-piece, where they are strong, they have a good kicking game and players like Bill Mata – who caused us problems earlier in the season – that we have to keep an eye on. They are solid across the park.

“We just need to make sure we are defensively up for this game. Clearly, we weren’t against the Blues and it is something that we have talked about this week.”

Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill said: “We’ve got three massive games, starting at Scarlets this weekend. We want to be back in the Heineken Champions Cup and we want to qualify by right.

“They’re all exciting games and even more so if you win them. We’ve got to test ourselves. Nothing has changed from the start of the year.

“We dropped short last weekend and now we’ve got three huge games. If we win them all, we’ll probably finish in the top-three, we’re in the play-offs and we’re in to Europe. If we drop one of those, we’re going to have to rely on other people.

“Scarlets will have a lot of that Welsh team coming back in – especially in that backline and in the front row. So, we expect a very tough game and whoever wins it will either stay above or jump above the other. It’s going to be a very tough contest.”

Key battle – Ken Owens v Stuart McInally

There are plenty of tasty-looking encounters all over the pitch as the internationals make their grand return for the business end of the season – no more so than at hooker.

In a replay of Wales’ Six Nations clash against Scotland, Ken Owens and Stuart McInally will face off again as the visiting captain looks to get his own back for the defeat at BT Murrayfield.

With both sides possessing such a wealth of talent in their backline, the battle up front will be decisive in providing the platform for both sides to unleash their attacking potential.

Key stat: Scarlets’ only defeat at home in the Guinness PRO14 since the opening day of the 2016/17 season was to Cardiff Blues on 29 December 2018.

Did you know? Edinburgh have won just twice in their last nine visits to Wales.

Scarlets: Leigh Halfpenny; Johnny McNicholl, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Steff Evans; Dan Jones, Gareth Davies; Rob Evans, Ken Owens (c), Samson Lee, Lewis Rawlins, Steve Cummins, Will Boyde, James Davies, Uzair Cassiem

Replacements: Marc Jones, Wyn Jones, Werner Kruger, Josh Helps, Josh Macleod, Kieran Hardy, Kieron Fonotia, Ioan Nicholas

Edinburgh: Darcy Graham; Damien Hoyland, Mark Bennett, Chris Dean, Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Walt, Henry Pyrgos; Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally (c), WP Nel, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, John Barclay, Hamish Watson, Viliame Mata

Replacements: Ross Ford, Rory Sutherland, Simon Berghan, Callum Hunter-Hill, Magnus Bradbury, Charlie Shiel, Simon Hickey, Matt Scott

TV: At Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli, 6.45pm. Live on Premier Sports 2, DAZN

Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)

AR1: Joy Neville (IRFU) AR2: Eddie Hogan O’Connell (IRFU)

TMO: Leo Colgan (IRFU)

The Guinness PRO14 Final is one of the most entertaining games in the rugby calendar and takes place in Glasgow’s Celtic Park on May 25. Tickets start at just £25 for adults, £1 for kids. Visit www.pro14rugby.org/finaltickets

Historical Lineup Pre Opta (sfms data) - Preview - v2

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Edinburgh produce nine-minute blitz to down Scarlets

Avatar tdean 6 Apr 2019

Jaco van der Walt produced nine minutes of magic as Edinburgh came from behind to beat Scarlets 20-12 in Llanelli.

After going almost three quarters of an hour without registering a point the Scots scored 17 in nine minutes to deny Scarlets the chance to leapfrog them in Conference B and stay right in the hunt for a Guinness PRO14 Final Series place.

Tries from Gareth Davies and Jonathan Davies put Wayne Pivac’s side in the ascendancy but after Matt Scott crossed for Edinburgh it turned into the Van der Walt show with the South African producing 15 of his side’s points.

Scarlets drew first blood after ten minutes when scrum-half Gareth Davies was found by the imperious Leigh Halfpenny.

Having collected the ball from fly-half Dan Jones, Halfpenny cut a sumptuous line to cut through the Edinburgh defence and had Davies in support who dummied confidently before crossing, Halfpenny making it a maximum score from the tee.

With 25 minutes on the clock Scarlets had a second, this time through one of Wales’ stars of this year’s Guinness Six Nations, Jonathan Davies.

Great work from winger Steff Evans saw him make the hard yards before sending an inside pass to Davies to finish off the move and this time Halfpenny missed out on the extras.

Scarlets were lucky to get away with only conceding three points while Ken Owens spent the end of the first half and beginning of the second in the sin bin as Van der Walt split the posts to get Edinburgh off the mark.

That seemed to wake the Scots up as the clock ticked through the hour mark Scott scored their first try carving a nice line through the Scarlets defence to dot down with Van der Walt converting.

After the conversion Van der Walt scooped up a Halfpenny offload from the floor and ran a full 60 metres to cross and put Edinburgh into the lead.

Another successful conversion followed by a penalty made it 17 points in nine minutes from the Scots to completely turn the tie on its head and secure the victory.

Victory moves Edinburgh to within two points of Ulster as they face a monumental clash against the Irishmen in the next round.

Meanwhile Scarlets’ hopes of a Guinness PRO14 Finals Series spot have been dealt a hammer blow as they now sit six points back from Edinburgh who occupy the third and final spot up for grabs.

The Guinness PRO14 Final is one of the most entertaining games in the rugby calendar and takes place in Glasgow’s Celtic Park on May 25. Tickets start at just £25 for adults, £1 for kids. Visit www.pro14rugby.org/finaltickets

Match Page 2017-18 - Summary WP:137

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Performance WP:138