The Scarlets face their Irish rivals in a slightly buoyant mood after a timely win the weekend before in the LV Cup to help boost their confidence going into what will be a crucial few weeks of the season. With a return to their home ground in the RaboDirect PRO12 after quite a few torrid weeks away from home, they will be gunning for a good win against their visitors Connacht.
Injuries to Rhodri Jones and Jacobie Adriaanse is a blow for the Scarlets after their good performances against Leicester in the LV Cup, yet Phil John and Samson Lee are just as capable of providing the Scarlets with a solid platform in the front row. With George Earle returning to the second row and captain McCusker and flanker Turnbull returning to the pack the Welsh side are looking like they will be strong up front.
Connacht have gone for consistency in their pack, and with the old head of Johnny O’Connor in the backrow they will be looking to disrupt Scarlets ball and hope that they can press their advantage through having a vastly more experienced half back pairing. Marmion at scrum half has taken part in every Connacht game this season and with Dan Parks pulling the strings at 10, the Scarlets back three will have to be at their best to counteract his kicking game.
The Scarlets have opted to reward the impressive performances of Aled Davies and Owen Williams with their half back pairing, and it will be a big ask especially for Williams to make the step up, and the home side will be hoping he shows the composure and accuracy he showed when playing last weekend.
Both sides have exciting backlines, with O’Halloran, Poolman and Vainikolo being very dangerous players for Connacht. The defence of the Scarlets’ Phillips and Owen will have to show improvement if they are to contain them, but the attacking threat in the Scarlets back three is potent, especially with their leading try scorer this season Andy Fenby on the other wing.
The Scarlets’ bench looks to be the stronger, especially in the backs yet Connacht will be pleased to see the return of Duffy on the bench as well as having the likes of Ah You, Faloon and Nikora to call on.
Connacht will be looking to get a much needed away win, and the Scarlets will be desperate to get a result to propel them back into a play-off spot. Either way this match will see two teams doing their utmost for a win, with sides being fielded that should provide the basis for a fiercely competitive and exciting game.
Scarlets: 15 Gareth Owen, 14 Andy Fenby, 13 Nick Reynolds, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Kristian Phillips, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Aled Davies, 1 Phil John, 2 Emyr Phillips, 3 Samson Lee, 4 George Earle, 5 Johan Synman, 6 Rob McCusker (capt), 7 Josh Turnbull, 8 Kieran Murphy
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Shaun Hopkins, 18 Deacon Manu, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Lewis Rawlins, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Gareth Maule.
Connacht:15. Tiernan O’Halloran14. Danie Poolman13. Eoin Griffin12. Kyle Tonetti11. Fetu’u Vainikolo10. Dan Parks9. Kieran Marmion1. Brett Wilkinson2. Jason Harris-Wright3. Nathan White (captain)4. Michael Swift5. Mick Kearney6. Andrew Browne7. Johnny O’Connor8. Eoin McKeon
Replacements: Ethienne Reynecke, Rodney Ah You, Ronan Loughney, Willie Faloon, John Muldoon, Paul O’Donohoe, Miah Nikora, Gavin Duffy