Match Preview: Scarlets vs. Ulster Rugby

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Match Preview: Scarlets vs. Ulster Rugby

Post by ADM » Fri Dec 12, 2014 3:40 pm

[tag=image]http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/e ... go.svg.png[/tag][tag=content]Well, we tried, we’re committed, and we paid the price.

Fair play to Neil Doak for motivating the players to get the five points – it certainly would have been easy for him to take the view that we stood no chance of qualifying from this pool and send our U12s. And his commitment was rewarded with one of our better performances of the season (undoubtedly aided by a certain Mr. Pienaar) and four tries to boot. Four tries that keeps our European dream alive, albeit for another week.

It perches us precariously in Europe though. We’ve now lost a further four players to injury – and likely long term injuries – and a defeat this week would more or less kill our already slim hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages. Meanwhile, our Pro12 chances are now in jeopardy as we will now be missing nine of our front line stars for three huge games against the Ospreys, Connacht and Leinster over the festive period.

First off we have to head back to the Parc y Scarlets for the rematch on Sunday at possibly the most awkward time possible. Who were the geniuses that decided 5:15 on a Sunday night was a good idea…

The permutations are simple – win and we head to the Felix Mayol in January with something to play for and the dream of advancing to the quarter-finals for the fifth successive season. Lose, and we’re gone. It’ll take at least 17 points to get out of the pool stage and with only six amassed so far, it’s win or nothing.

Of course, that’s nowhere near a given, especially with so many players sidelined with injury coupled with the fact that this week we’re away in Llanelli. Expect the Welsh crowd to be just as partisan as we were last week and try to get referee JP Doyle on their side. Of course, don’t forget that our opponents are just as in this as we are and if it were they who got the win then they would head into the final two games with a real shot at going through.

Just because we beat them last weekend doesn’t mean they’ll be any less of a threat this weekend. They will be determined to avenge their poor showing at the Kingspan and protect their unbeaten record at home this season with all they’ve got. In front of their fans they are a different animal and with our squad so decimated, it’ll be a big effort from all 23 of our squad in order for us to get the win that we need (or for some, don’t want!).

But with Ruan Pienaar and Dan Tuohy back, and both seemingly firing on all cylinders, there is a sense that even with our absentees we can build on last week’s performance. We threw away a lot of promising positions last Saturday and if we can convert those into points this Sunday then who knows how we can go this weekend. We need to stay hot on the heels of Toulon and the Tigers to set up an exciting January double-header.

Three changes for Wayne Pivac and the Scarlets from last week’s side. Kristian Phillips is brought back into the side on the wing in place of Harry Robinson, while Wales international Rhodri Williams starts at scrum-half ahead of Aled Davies. Rob McCusker is back from injury and replaces Rory Pitman at number eight.

Neil Doak has made three changes to last week’s team, all due to injury. Luke Marshall has recovered from injury to start at inside centre in place of Stuart Olding in the only change in the backs, while up front Declan Fitzpatrick is introduced to the front row ahead of Wiehahn Herbst and Clive Ross is brought into the back row due to Nick Williams’ absence.

We haven’t lost to the Scarlets yet this season, and hopefully that will continue on Sunday. However, as I have been saying to others, I would happily take a loss and no more injuries if it helps us in the long term – I am one of those that believes that we need a minor miracle to make it out of this pool and I would much rather we got through this game unscathed and focused on our Pro12 endeavours instead.

A second four-try win wouldn’t go amiss though…

Scarlets vs. Ulster Rugby
Sunday 14th December, 17:15
Parc y Scarlets
Rugby Champions’ Cup – Round Four

Live on BT Sport 2

SCARLETS
15. Liam Williams, 14. Kristian Phillips, 13. Regan King, 12. Scott Williams (capt.), 11. Michael Tagicakibau, 10. Rhys Priestland, 9. Rhodri Williams; 1. Rob Evans, 2. Emyr Phillips, 3. Samson Lee, 4. Jake Ball, 5. Johan Snyman, 6. Aaron Shingler, 7. James Davies, 8. Rob McCusker.

16. Kirby Myhill, 17. Wyn Jones, 18. Rhodri Jones, 19. George Earle, 20. Rory Pitman, 21. Aled Davies, 22. Steven Shingler, 23. Hadleigh Parkes.

ULSTER RUGBY
15. Louis Ludik, 14. Tommy Bowe, 13. Darren Cave, 12. Luke Marshall, 11. Craig Gilroy, 10. Ian Humphreys, 9. Ruan Pienaar; 1. Callum Black, 2. Rory Best (capt.), 3. Declan Fitzpatrick, 4. Dan Tuohy, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 6. Robbie Diack, 7. Clive Ross, 8. Roger Wilson.

16. Rob Herring, 17. Andrew Warwick, 18. Bronson Ross, 19. Alan O’Connor, 20. Mike McComish, 21. Paul Marshall, 22. Michael Heaney, 23. Michael Allen.

Referee: JP Doyle (RFU)
Assistant Referees: Tom Foley, Roy Maybank (both RFU)
TMO: Graham Hughes (RFU)[/tag]

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