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Tony Buckley and Denis Fogarty
Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Scarlets Expect A Tough One
9 September 2007, 2:52 pm
By Pat Geraghty
"I've not seen a lot of them this season but know they have played USA, Saracens and Viadana and played different sides on each occasion. They have two powerful centres who are very direct. They are also traditionally very strong in the lineout and scrum and are always competitive. So I don't expect anything different on Saturday." - so says Llanelli Scarlets Director of Rugby, Phil Davies ahead of his side's clash with Munster at Musgrave Park (5.30pm).
Davies makes reference to Munster's good early form that has seen them win three from three but the Scarlets have already played two competitive games and after an opening round defeat to Newport Gwent Dragons in Fortress Stradey, the Scarlets went as underdogs to the Liberty stadium but came away with a hard fought victory to condemn the current champions to their second defeat of the season.

"We approached the Dragons in a positive manner but for whatever reason we were a bit lethargic in that game," said Davies.

"But that's the nature of sport sometimes. Ask Eddie O'Sullivan and I'm sure he will not be able to explain Ireland's performances in the World Cup. We felt we prepared properly beforehand but for whatever reason we didn't put the performance together on the day."

Having lost inspirational skipper Simon Easterby and towering lock Scott MacLeod to Irish and Scottish duty in the World Cup along with Welsh internationals Dwayne Peel, Stephen Jones, Mark Jones, Alix Popham, Dafydd James and Matthew Rees, the Scarlets are giving youth its head in the opening rounds of the Magners League - a fact that holds the future in good stead Davies believes.

"I'm comfortable in saying that by the end of this season we would have given between nine and 12 players a great opportunity at the Scarlets. In three or four years time I believe these guys will provide the spine of the Scarlets. And I am excited about the look of the squad.

"You have young guys like Ken Owens and Lou Reed who are now in their second year with the Scarlets and this year we're introducing Josh Turnbull, Rhys Priestland and a few others. Added to that over the next couple of years I am hoping to recruit a couple of top class players so it's all about getting the right balance."

Davies expects a tough battle tonight, particularly as the Irish side will be looking to get their campaign under way with a win.

""I've not seen a lot of them this season but know they have played USA, Saracens and Viadana and played different sides on each occasion. They have two powerful centres who are very direct. They are also traditionally very strong in the lineout and scrum and are always competitive. So I don't expect anything different on Saturday."

And Davies' counterpart Declan Kidney will also be hoping for 'more of the same' in terms of what has been produced to date by a squad that, like the Scarlets, has given youth its fling and found the youngster more than willing to put their shoulders to the wheel.

Since the start of season, beginning with the USA game, Munster have given senior debuts to, Gerry Hurley (scrum-half), Sean Cronin (hooker), Tommy O'Donnell (flanker), Ciaran O'Boyle (wing), Duncan Williams (scrum-half) and Billy Holland - son of former team manager Jerry - who made his debut in the back-row (v Saracens) and then produced an equally impressive performance alongside Mark Melbourne against Viadana last time out.

Besides those - all current or former Munster Academy members - the newcomers to the Munster set-up, Paul Warwick, Kieran Lewis, Niall Ronan and Rua Tipoki have all been blooded and are included in the squad for Saturday evening.

With the exception of Williams and O'Boyle, all are included in the original 25 strong squad for Saturday but that will be trimmed today. The head scratching for Kidney in the backs will possibly centre mainly round the jerseys number 15, 10, and 12. Mossy Lawlor was the man in possession of the 15 jersey but tweaked a hamstring last week. At 10 its Paul Warwick versus Jeremy Manning with the spring back in his step and the inside centre berth looks like a straight choice between Rua Tipoki and Lifeimi Mafi.

For this opening Magners League game, Musgrave Park will offer a host of off-field activities (face painters, balloon stand and an inflatable tri-scoring unit) and for the first time there will be a giant screen showing close ups/replays of key moments during the match.

On Saturday, the gates open at 4pm and for those travelling by car the Black Ash Park & Ride Facility will be open on for the match. The facility is 5 minutes walk from Musgrave Park, and the cost is €3 per car (next to Woodies DIY).

The Park 'N Ride facility will close approx 30 mins after the final whistle.

Scarlets: Morgan Stoddart; Garan Evans, Regan King, Gavin Evans, Matthew Watkins; Rhys Prietland, Gavin Cattle; Iestyn Thomas, James Hayter, Bruce Douglas; Vernon Cooper, Adam Eustace; Dafydd Jones, James Bater (capt), Nathan Thomas.
Replacements: Ben Broster, Ken Owens, Lou Reed, Johnathan Edwards, Liam Davies, Daniel Evans, Jon Davies

The Munster side to play Llanelli Scarlets will be announced after training today at (1.45pm approx) at Garryowen RFC.

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