Scarlets v Ospreys match preview
A derby match. In Wales, it doesn’t often get bigger than this, and a derby win over your closest rivals can be priceless.
In the past few seasons the Ospreys have usually approached these games as top dog whether home or away, but it is the Scarlets for a change that are seen as favourites and not without reason. Winning three from three to counteract the Ospreys’ three losses from three, and starting all of their Wales internationals stars has the Scarlets as stand outs in many people’s eyes.
A word of caution should be uttered however when you consider the Ospreys’ front five. With Hibbard in the front row and the Grand Slam second row pairing of Alun Wyn Jones and Ian Evans to call upon, the visitors definitely have the upper hand in this department. With the half back pairing of Knoyle and Priestland however, and a backline dotted with the likes of North, Davies and Williams it is difficult to see how the Ospreys line up can compare.
The Scarlets, however talented their backs are, will still need to compete with the Ospreys’ front five and it will be this area that the visitors will be determined to press home their advantage. If they can starve the Scarlets of ball and use the reliable Dan Biggar to good effect, this match just might turn out to be a lot closer than many would suspect.
Big games are needed for new Scarlets Earle and Kelly in the pack and Preistland needs to find his kicking boots that have so far abandoned him, albeit in stadiums that have been blowing a gale. If the home side have any sort of platform to work on, then the new Ospreys centre partnership of Bishop and Isaacs will face an almost impossible task of trying to stop players of George North’s calibre running through them.
The loss of Adam Jones will be felt keenly by the visiting side, but they will be heartened by the appearance of Ryan Jones on the bench. After knee surgery though, there is a question mark over how much of an appearance he will be able to make.
If the teams stick to form then the Scarlets should win this fairly well, albeit after a fiercely contested first 60 minutes. However in derby games, form rarely matters, and with the Opsreys determined to get their season back on track, this would be the perfect scalp for them to pick up on the road.
One thing for certain is that a packed out Parc Y Scarlets is in for a spectacle, where two sides clash in the ultimate contest for pride and bragging rights, but more importantly the points. The Opsreys will be desperate for a win, but the Scarlets are riding on a crest of confidence, and with their home support singing them on, should manage to find the game that brings them home the victory.
Scarlets: Liam Williams; George North, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Andy Fenby; Rhys Priestland, Tavis Knoyle; Phil John, Ken Owens, Deacon Manu, George Earle, Richard Kelly, Aaron Shingler, Rob McCusker (capt), Josh Turnbull.
Replacements: Matthew Rees, Peter Edwards, Samson Lee, Sione Timani, Johnathan Edwards, Gareth Davies, Aled Thomas,Gareth Maule.
Ospreys: Richard Fussell; Hanno Dirksen, Tom Isaacs, Andrew Bishop, Tom Grabham; Dan Biggar, Kahn Fotuali’i; Duncan Jones, Richard Hibbard, Aaron Jarvis, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Ian Evans, George Stowers, Joe Bearman, Justin Tipuric.
Replacements: Scott Baldwin, Ryan Bevington, Joe Rees, Jonathan Thomas, Ryan Jones, Rhys Webb, Matthew Morgan, Jonathan Spratt.