Munster can maintain momentum as Scannell set for landmark appearance
Pro14 preview: Scarlets v Munster, Parc y Scarlets (5.0, live on TG4, Premier Sports 2)
Rory Scannell will become the youngest player to reach 100 appearances for province. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
The Scarlets may languish in fifth place in Conference B but they are just five point behind Benetton Rugby in second place and coach Wayne Pivac will be delighted to bolster his team with a number of Welsh squad players including prop Wyn Jones and hooker Ryan Elias, who have already played for Warren Gatland’s side in this season’s Six Nations Championship.
Leigh Halfpenny appears to have recovered from his concussion issues that have kept him sidelined since November and is named at fullback in a backline that contains the ever dangerous try scoring threat of New Zealander Johnny McNicholl. Two further Welsh squad members Rhys Patchell and Steff Evans are on the bench.
Pivac was happy with Scarlets start to last week’s victory over the Cheetahs, scoring four tries in the first 20-minutes in racking up a bonus point but less so with the focus and concentration thereafter. He is aware that there will be a great deal more substance to the challenge that his team will face in west Wales.
He said: “We all know that Munster are going to be a very different proposition this evening. They will bring a lot aggression in defence, a lot more line-speed as a lot of Northern Hemisphere teams are doing. That poses a different challenge; we need to be on our game and are expecting more of an arm wrestle.
“You look at the table with five games to go and it looks like being a real dogfight, potentially I can see it going down to the last weekend.”
Rory Scannell, 25, will become the youngest player to reach 100 appearances for the province and is one of seven changes to the side that beat the Ospreys last weekend. Ronan O’Mahony comes on the right wing while Bill Johnston and Alby Mathewson form a new halfback partnership.
John Ryan returns from international duty in Rome to wear the number three jersey, Jean Kleyn has recovered from the illness that forced him to cry off last weekend and Conor Oliver gets his opportunity in the backrow.
Johann van Graan’s side are on a run of seven wins in all competitions and have shown the mettle to grind out victories in tight contested tussles, a trait that will stand to them in what will be a tough assignment but one which they are capable of squeezing out a result.
SCARLETS: L Halfpenny; I Nicholas, K Fonotia (capt), P Asquith, J McNicholl; D Jones, K Hardy; W Jones, R Elias, W Kruger; J Helps, L Rawlins; J Macleod, D Davis, U Cassiem. Replacements: M Jones, P Price, J Sebastian, T Price, W Boyde, S Hidalgo-Clyne, R Patchell, S Evans.
MUNSTER: M Haley; R O’Mahony, D Goggin, R Scannell, D Sweetnam; B Johnston, A Mathewson; J Loughman, R Marshall, J Ryan; J Kleyn, B Holland (capt); F Wycherley, C Oliver, A Botha. Replacements: K O’Byrne, L O’Connor, S Archer, D O’Shea, J O’Donoghue, N Cronin, T Bleyendaal, J Taute.
Referee: M Adamson (Scotland)