RaboDirect Pro12: Scarlets’s Simon Easterby recalls six Wales stars
RaboDirect Pro12: Scarlets chief Simon Easterby recalls six Wales internationals for Glasgow Warriors clash
Simon Easterby has recalled six Wales internationals into his match-day squad to face play-off rivals Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun on Friday night.
Liam Williams returns at full-back, with Wales’ 2013 Junior World Cup star Jordan Williams switching to the left wing and Kristian Phillips operating down the right as the Scarlets look to keep their play-off hopes alive after defeat in Ulster last week.
Captain Jonathan Davies returns at centre to partner Olly Barkley with Aled Thomas – who announced he was leaving the West Wales region at the end of the season on Friday – continuing at outside-half in place of Rhys Priestland alongside the Pro12’s top try-scorer Gareth Davies at scrum-half.
They’ve all to a man been keen to continue playing, it’s a good boost and it adds to the competitiveness of the squad
Up front, hooker Ken Owens returns from Wales duty to pack down between Paul John and Samson Lee with George Earle and Johan Snyman in the engine room.
John Barclay—who spent nine seasons with in Glasgow before heading to Llanelli last summer and was one third of the ‘killer Bs’ back row—starts on the openside against his former club.
Cardiff-bound Josh Turnbull at blindside and Sione Timani at number 8.
Destructive lock Jake Ball is included on the bench along with tighthead prop Rhodri Jones and scrum-half Rhodri Williams, who scored the last of Wales’ seven tries against Scotland.
Williams and Davies—arguably Wales’ most influential attacking players against Scotland in the final Six Nations match—will find the free running they served up last Saturday hampered by a dreadful Scotstoun Stadium pitch.
On Friday, it was today covered in parts and needing new turf laid in others and their powerful attacking game will need to be on top form to overcome one of the meanest defences in the league.
“The guys have come back to us from Wales with a spring in their step and we still have something to play for,” Easterby said.
“It’s positive to hear the boys were looking forward after the [Wales vs Scotland] game to come back, hopefully their return can be a good boost to what has been a relatively good period for us.
“They’ve all to a man been keen to continue playing, it’s a good boost and it adds to the competitiveness of the squad. The boys played well for us here whilst the Six Nations went on.”
After a narrow defeat by reigning champions Leinster last time out, the Warriors have also recalled international stars to key positions.
Scarlets are a quality side, who finished in the top four last season and are only seven points and one place behind us in sixth, so they pose a huge threat
The Scottish side are boosted by the return of club captain Al Kellock to the bench along with Sean Maitland, who has recovered from an injury picked up early in Scotland’s Six Nations campaign.
Peter Murchie continues at full-back in an unchanged back three with Tommy Seymour continuing on the right wing and Flying Fijian Niko Matawalu on the left.
Alex Dunbar—Scotland’s try-scoring hero against Italy—returns at centre with Richie Vernon with Duncan Weir and Chris Cusiter returning as the half-back partnership.
In the front row, Gordon Reid packs down with fellow prop Jon Welsh with Dougie Hall starting as hooker.
Tim Swinson—who scored the match-winning try between the sides in October—joins Jonny Gray in the engine room.
Rob Harley and Chris Fusaro start on the blindside and openside flanks respectively with Josh Strauss continuing at number 8.
“It’s great for us to be able to welcome back a number of Scotland players, but we haven’t made a lot of changes to the team which narrowly lost to Leinster earlier this month,” said Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend.
“I was pleased with our performance that night and although we didn’t get the result we wanted we came very close to beating one of the best sides in Europe.
“Scarlets are a quality side, who finished in the top four last season and are only seven points and one place behind us in sixth, so they pose a huge threat.
“Although we won down in Wales in October, they beat us home and away last season, so they know what it’s like to win at Scotstoun.”