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Depleted Scarlets already have PRO14 as their main focus


Tough campaign: Wayne Pivac is out to salvage pride tonight

Tough campaign: Wayne Pivac is out to salvage pride tonight

�INPHO/Craig Thomas

Tough campaign: Wayne Pivac is out to salvage pride tonight

An already dismal-looking European campaign ended up being well and truly shredded last Friday, and there may yet be further pain to come as the Scarlets now look to the Guinness PRO14 as their only shot at salvaging something from this season.

Mind you, their performance at Glasgow in the PRO14, the week before Europe's round three meeting with Ulster, was dire when they fell to their fourth defeat in 10 games and, alarmingly, this was against a Warriors side reduced to 14 men.

In truth, they had barely improved a week later when, with Ken Owens, Gareth Davies and the benched Hadleigh Parkes all back, the Scarlets put in a performance of shocking inaccuracy, with Ulster's one-point winning margin being no reflection of just how poor the west Wales side had been on the night as they tumbled to a third European defeat from three rounds to effectively end their interest in the competition.

With Leinster running away with the PRO14's Conference B, departing Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac has a battle on his hands to fight off Ulster's challenge to snatch second in the table, while Benetton Rugby and Edinburgh are not far behind as they eye up a realistic push to try and steal in to take a play-off place in third.

And all this after the Scarlets made it to last season's PRO14 final and European Champions Cup semi-final where they met all-conquering Leinster, who turned them over on both occasions.

So what has happened? It's difficult to provide a precise answer, but there may well be an issue created by Pivac being unveiled last summer as Warren Gatland's successor after next autumn's World Cup.

There is no doubt that the Scarlets' current injury list has also taken its toll - the worst Pivac reckons he has ever seen in over two decades in the game, with Leigh Halfpenny still side-lined - as have the departures of high profile players Tadhg Beirne and John Barclay.

All have combined to more than suggest that the Scarlets are in no place to replicate the heights of the last campaign.

They do, at least, have lock Jake Ball back for tonight's essentially pride-salvaging occasion, and Parkes starts, but the situation in Pivac's back row is not good as the injury list has badly stretched their resources.

With James Davies out and a host of others all unavailable, Pivac has been forced to name second row Josh Helps as back row cover. None of it augurs well, with the Scarlets already thinking about what they must do in the PRO14.

Meanwhile, Exeter's misfiring Heineken Champions Cup campaign will fizzle out tonight if they fail to beat David Humphreys' Gloucester at Kingsholm.

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