Despite the number of injuries we have, there is a real confidence and belief in our game and the process we need to go through to achieve the different milestones we’ve set out for ourselves.” The words of Connacht boss Pat Lam as the province chase their first win in Llanelli in almost ten years.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Sunday, March 30
SCARLETS (6th) v CONNACHT (7th), Parc y Scarlets, 2.05pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC 2 Wales)
Team News: Head coach Pat Lam has once again named an unchanged Connacht team for the trip to the Scarlets in Llanelli on Sunday afternoon.
Hooker Jason Harris-Wright will earn his 40th cap for the province this weekend, starting in a front row with Denis Buckley and one of last Sunday’s try scorers in Newport, Rodney Ah You.
Galway man John Muldoon, who has notched four tries in the last two games, will captain the side from the back row.
Eoin Griffin made an impressive 21 tackles against the Dragons last time out and he will again partner David McSharry in the centre, as the westerners look to record their fifth successive league win.
Meanwhile, the Scarlets are bolstered both up front and in the back-line for the visit of Connacht with a number of the region’s international stars back available.
Returning international Ken Owens, Rhodri Jones and Jake Ball add weight up front, while Rhys Priestland, Liam Williams and Jonathan Davies, who will captain the side in Rob McCusker’s absence, all bring in experience to the backs division.
Having narrowly missed out on a losing bonus point against Glasgow last weekend, the Llanelli outfit’s hopes of qualifying for the play-offs have slipped further from their grasp.
SCARLETS: Liam Williams; Kristian Phillips, Jonathan Davies (capt), Olly Barkley, Jordan Williams; Rhys Priestland, Gareth Davies; Phil John, Ken Owens, Rhodri Jones, Jake Ball, Johan Snyman, Josh Turnbull, John Barclay, Sione Timani.
Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Rob Evans, Jacobie Adriaanse, Richard Kelly, Lewis Rawlins, Rhodri Williams, Aled Thomas, Gareth Maule
CONNACHT: Robbie Henshaw; Tiernan O’Halloran, Eoin Griffin, David McSharry, Fionn Carr; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Jason Harris-Wright, Rodney Ah You, Aly Muldowney, Michael Kearney, John Muldoon (capt), Eoghan Masterson, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: David Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Nathan White, Michael Swift, Andrew Browne, Frank Murphy, Miah Nikora, Darragh Leader.
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Davies, Martyn Lewis (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Tim Hayes (Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Scarlets to win: 1/6; Draw: 25/1; Connacht to win: 7/2
Pre-Match Quotes: Pat Lam (Connacht) – “Being able to put out the same team for the third fixture in a row is testament to the performance of those players selected.
“The recent team performances have been driven by huge competition for places within the squad. Our training has certainly gone up another level in the last number of weeks and we have some experienced and quality players in key positions all pushing hard for a starting place.
“It makes selection tough in one way, but it is also great to see the guys named striving to perform on behalf of the entire squad.
“It’s always been a challenge going over to play Scarlets and it’s been nearly ten years since we’ve won at Llanelli. The fact that both sides are now fighting for a top six finish definitely adds some spice.
“The Scarlets have just come off the back of two losses and will see us as a winnable game at home, especially with the amount of internationals they have in their squad.
“Despite the number of injuries we have, there is a real confidence and belief in our game and the process we need to go through to achieve the different milestones we’ve set out for ourselves.”
Simon Easterby (Scarlets) – “Despite coping reasonably well during the Six Nations campaign the quality the boys bring to the table now is important. This week is about putting in the performance and we’ve had a little more time together to prepare and for the players to get back into their patterns.
“The likes of Rhys (Priestland) and Jon (Davies) have a lot of responsibility in terms of performance. They’ll be able to lead us through the last five games, there are plenty of positives still to come!
“We were all disappointed and frustrated after last weekend’s performance (against Glasgow Warriors), based on the games we have remaining it’s going to be pretty difficult for us to target that top four spot.
“Having said that it now makes the remaining five games really important. We can’t afford to look passed finishing in the top six.
“Connacht have won four games on the bounce which has seen them move up into seventh place and trail us by only four points.
“Their scrum and lineout drive has been really effective and our discipline has got to be spot on against them on Sunday.
“They’ve started to find their feet under Pat Lam and they have a really effective set piece, driving lineout and scrum. They’re well equipped pretty much right across the park.”
Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Scarlets – Points: Aled Thomas 53; Tries: Gareth Davies 8; Connacht – Points: Dan Parks 93; Tries: Fionn Carr, Kieran Marmion, John Muldoon 4 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, February 12, 2011 – Connacht 17 Scarlets 13, the Sportsground
Saturday, September 10, 2011 – Connacht 13 Scarlets 11, the Sportsground
Friday, March 2, 2012 – Scarlets 38 Connacht 10, Parc y Scarlets
Saturday, September 15, 2012 – Connacht 11 Scarlets 24, the Sportsground
Friday, February 8, 2013 – Scarlets 25 Connacht 15, Parc y Scarlets
Saturday, November 23, 2013 – Connacht 21 Scarlets 24, the Sportsground
– The Scarlets have slipped to successive RaboDirect PRO12 losses, away at Ulster and at Glasgow
– The Welshmen have won their last three matches in all competitions at Parc y Scarlets
– Connacht have won their last four PRO12 matches and climbed from 12th to seventh spot in the table in the process
– Another victory would equal the westerners’ best ever run in the competition set way back in 2002
– The Scarlets have won their last four encounters with Connacht, while the Irish province’s most recent victory in Llanelli came in October 2004 at the old Stradey Park