Return of five Wales internationals bolsters Scarlets
Wayne Pivic calls on his side to ‘muscle up’ and match the physicality of La Rochelle
Irish eyes with be on the Munster-bound Tadhg Beirne who goes into the match in the secondrow with a competition high of 14 turnovers for Scarlets. Photograph: Kevin Barnes/Inpho
Scarlets v La Rochelle, Parc y Scarlets, Friday, 5.30pm (Live BT Sport)
Wales have strengthened up by shovelling five of their internationals back into the Scarlets roster with Leigh Halfpenny, Gareth Davies, Rob Evans, Ken Owens and Hadleigh Parkes starting against a French side boldly bidding for Champions Cup success in their first attempt.
But Scarlets playing at home represent a threat to any side and their fast breaking backs and an enlarged Parc y Scarlets making for a spectacle. Scarlets sold out their extra 15,000 seats within minutes of going on sale. There is expectancy among the local fans, who are hoping the side can go one better than Pro 14 league championship.
La Rochelle have a couple of former All Blacks out of the game through injury including Victor Vito and flanker Jason Eaton. Oddly, the French side have scored a competition high of seven tries from kick returns in the pool stage, 39 per cent of their total tries scored.
Irish eyes with be on the Munster-bound 26-year-old Tadhg Beirne who goes into the match in the secondrow with a competition high of 14 turnovers for Scarlets.
The Welsh side made it to the last eight in 2006-07 so a semi-final is a new departure for them with coach Wayne Pivac typically looking forward to the challenge of a combination of a French side that can move the ball and also use their “big men”.
“They’ve got some quality there with ex-All Blacks and across the board they have a lot of big men. They’re going to be a handful, we know that,” said Pivac. “We’re going to have to bring a very good game, not only in attack but also in defence. We have to muscle up, we have to bring the physicality and match them up front.”
Pivac knows that while La Rochelle defeated Bordeaux last time out they arrive in the heartland of Welsh rugby not having won away from home in 2018. Llanelli is a hell of a place to turn that around.
SCARLETS: L Halfpenny; P Asquith, S Williams, H Parkes, S Evans; R Patchell, G Davies; R Evans, K Owens, S Lee; T Beirne, D Bulbring; A Shingler, J Davies, J Barclay.
Replacements: R Elias, D Evans, W Kruger, L Rawlins, W Boyde, A Davies, D Jones, J Macleod.
LA ROCHELLE: C Bouldoire; V Rattez, A Retiere, P Aguillon, S Barry; J Sinzelle, A Bales; D Priso, P Bourgarit, U Atonio; R Sazy, M Tanguy; B Veivuke, Z Kieft, A Amosa.
Replacements: H Forbes, K Tufele, M Boughanmi, G Lamboley, K Gourdon, T Kerr Barlow, B Noble, P Boudehent.
Referee: L Pearce (RFU)