Belfast Telegraph

Coach Wayne Pivac is quietly confident over Scarlets success

By Michael Sadlier

Wayne Pivac expressed himself reasonably satisfied with last weekend when the Scarlets came away with a losing bonus point defeat from Connacht and he has continued to sound positive about tonight's return to European action.

The coach may have chosen not to linger on the PRO12 table when talking up the side's showing in Galway - the Scarlets are sitting in seventh - but his feeling that the good vibes from Wales's win over South Africa can only be useful for his side as their internationals return to the region may be of rather more relevance.

After all, there is a greater sense of optimism regarding the Scarlets involvement in Europe after they put up such a battling performance at Toulon and then turned Leicester over at Parc y Scarlets, two results which have brought them to second in Pool Three.

And a couple of good outcomes in these back-to-back encounters with Ulster will not only keep their qualification hopes alive, but it just might also help to kick-start their stuttering PRO12 season.

So the Kiwi coach is quite naturally coming across in fairly upbeat form though, of course, the prospects of getting an all-important away win tonight hardly look that promising especially as they have yet to taste victory outside Parc y Scarlets this season.

But Pivac has, nevertheless, described Ulster's plight - two games and two defeats - as being "desperate" and that the Scarlets can expect the home side to be throwing everything at this to keep their already perilous hopes of making the last eight just about alive.

"We are going there sitting in second in the pool and they are looking for their first win in the competition so they are going to be desperate," said the Scarlets coach.

"They need to win otherwise it is all over for them, pretty much.

"It will be a massive challenge, they will have a big crowd and we will be up against it, but we will certainly go in there, as we did in France, with a view of trying to get a result."

Much has been made of the returning players from national duties and how their presence will be crucial over these back-to-back encounters with tonight's game being the second time the sides have met following September's 32-32 draw in the PRO12 at Parc y Scarlets.

"Those boys coming back from the Welsh camp have come back with confidence," Pivac said.

"We expect our performance to lift. We need it to be back to where it was prior to those guys going away with Wales, to where it was against Toulon and Leicester.

"We played very well in those two matches, we certainly took it up another level from the Pro12," he added.

Indeed, Pivac has brought in most of his returning Wales internationals to what is a strong Scarlets starting line-up with Samson Lee, Jake Ball, Rhys Priestland, Emyr Phillips and Scott and Liam Williams all coming straight back into the side.

Veteran Kiwi Regan King moves to outside centre to accommodate the return of Scott Williams, who skippers the side, while Fijian Michael Tagicakibau is moved back to the wing after playing at 13 against Connacht.

So, for the first-up encounter, the Scarlets are feeling they might be in with a chance at the Kingspan tonight.

Belfast Telegraph

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