Wayne Pivac: Leicester Tigers will be a big challenge for Scarlets
Scarlets head coach expects a difficult encounter as his side look to get back to winning ways in the European Rugby Champions Cup
Wayne Pivac expects Leicester Tigers to be a big challenge when the sides meet today in the European Champions Cup at Welford Road.
The Scarlets head coach is having to negotiate an ongoing injury nightmare and a winless run on the road that stretches back almost 12 months.
Leicester have a very mobile line-out which is very efficient and it’s going to be a big challenge for us.
Both clubs have an outside chance of reaching the Champions Cup quarter-finals, but the task is made harder for the Welsh region with reigning champions Toulon to come in the final round of the pool stages next week.
The West Walians were confortable 15-3 winners when the clubs met in the reverse fixture at the Parc y Scarlets in round two, but their set-piece dominance has been taken away with several big names absent from their front row, including Wales international hookers Ken Owens and Emyr Phillips, and tighthead props Samson Lee and Rhodri Jones.
“We have a pretty extensive injury toll but there’s not a lot we can do about that,” Pivac said.
“If we look back at the Tigers game here at Parc y Scarlets, we had a bit of disarray in that game with four injuries in the first half hour.
“We rallied the troops that day, dug deep and came up with a great result; something similar will be required with this game.”
With three hooker unavailable, 20-year-old Scarlets Academy hooker Ryan Elias will make his European debut after making his first start for the club in their Guinness PRO12 defeat at Glasgow Warriors seven days ago.
Wales full-back Liam Williams is another absentee after picking up a shoulder injury against Glasgow Warriors last week, but he is expected to be available for Wales’ Six Nations campaign.
It’s a big game, there’s a lot riding on it – we’re second equal with Leicester – the winner of this game is still in with a chance next week.
In his place is 21-year-old Jordan Williams, while Harry Robinson, who scored the opening try against the Tigers in October, also returns after a spell on the sidelines with a groin problem.
Leicester’s Welsh outside-half Owen Williams, who had been linked with a move back to Llanelli before signing a new deal at Welford Road, has to make do with a place on the bench against his former club, with Richard Cockerill opting to give England international Freddie Burns an outing from the start.
But Pivac believes the big test for the Scarlets will come up front, particularly at the set-piece with Leicester enjoying a 96 per cent success on their own line-out so far in the competition and having experienced campaigners Brad Thorn and Logovi’i Mulipola back in the pack.
“Leicester have a very mobile line-out which is very efficient and it’s going to be a big challenge for us,” he added.
“We’re very much still in the hunt. We’ve spoken this week and said ‘let’s park the PRO12’.
“We’ve put in four pretty good performances in the first four games [in Europe] with two wins.
“The performance away from home against Toulon was a very solid performance.
“We’ve talked about the performance against Toulon on the road and that’s the sort of effort we’re going to need and also the gutsy performance against Tigers out here – we need to transfer that to their ground.
“It’s a big game, there’s a lot riding on it – we’re second equal with Leicester – the winner of this game is still in with a chance next week.”