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Coach Pivac insists Scarlets must deliver against Ulster

By Michael Sadlier

Now that we seem to have an accord over what was the frighteningly toxic row between the Welsh regions and the WRU, it's not difficult, even from this side of the Irish Sea, to detect the sense the relief that has swept the game in the Principality.

With the pressure valve now released, the regions have finally been able to fully focus on all that really should matter, namely getting on with playing the game and securing European qualification for the following season.

There has been a rise in optimism from some of the regions with the Scarlets and Cardiff Blues both being tipped to do that bit better this season than has recently been the norm.

Having said that, aside from all the internal in-fighting, it's still not all been plain sailing and the Scarlets got a taste of the unexpected during the off-season with head coach and club stalwart Simon Easterby departing to join Joe Schmidt's coaching team 'across the water'.

That certainly wasn't part of the plan at Parc y Scarlets but this left the way open for newly arrived assistant coach Wayne Pivac to take the helm and the Kiwi – who comes with spells coaching Fiji and Auckland on his CV – has pledged to continue the positive aspects of the game which the Scarlets have shown while still treading water over the last few seasons.

Fine, but Pivac has also made it abundantly clear that the side's inconsistency must be ironed out and that finishing outside the top four is simply not part of the plan.

Pivac, ever the direct-talking Kiwi, outlined his ideas earlier this week with an attention-grabbing soundbite which laid on the line to his squad who finished in a disappointing sixth last season.

"It's not just about the pay cheque and turning up for training. There's more to it than that," he said.

"It's about making sure the players understand who they represent," he added, referring to the passionate West Wales community.

"There's a duty there and it's now their turn to deliver."

The Scarlets are clearly talking a good game which is admirable especially when last season's loss of key player Jonathan Davies was thought to be yet another death knell for the club and the game in Wales generally. So, optimism is in the air but only a set of positive results will put meat on the bone.

At least it went quite well last week when Pivac oversaw the 29-24 victory over Gloucester with debuts for Richard Hibbard and James Hook.

A lot is expected from the return of veteran centre Regan King, who lines out opposite Jared Payne today, and how he combines with fellow midfielder Scott Williams and, with Rhys Priestland pulling the strings, Pivac is confident that the Scarlets will have sufficient cutting edge.

Up front, they look strong with Phil John, skipper Ken Owens and Rhodri Jones forming a formidable front row, while much is expected of new arrival Rory Pitman at number eight.

As ever, though, the Scarlets now have to do the hard part and deliver.

Belfast Telegraph


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