RaboDirect Pro12: Davies ready to do battle without key men
No one would begrudge the great Shane Williams his big send-off tomorrow against the Wallabies, but Scarlets coach Nigel Davies will hardly be alone if, privately, he has not quite bought into all the emotion surrounding Wales’ meeting with Australia.
Even though Scarlets are on a pretty decent roll at the moment, Davies now has to do without eight Wales internationals for tonight’s tricky trip to Ravenhill as the Scarlets seek to stretch their unbeaten run in all competitions to nine games. Five of his key players, though, George North, Scott Williams, Rhys Priestland, Matthew Rees and Tavis Knoyle are all part of tomorrow’s Welsh squad.
But even though Warren Gatland has made it known that his players are battle-weary after the World Cup — which will also hardly delight Davies and the other club coaches to see them play another test match ahead of next week’s return to Heineken Cup action — the Wales coach has also pointed out that the money generated from tomorrow’s Millennium Stadium showpiece will also help boost the regional sides in times where any cash injection is vital to the continuing health of the game in Wales.
So there you have it. Taking players away from the regions for the second week running, following on from last week’s Wales training camp which also involved the same eight Scarlets’ squad members, is the price to be paid for doing some good business.
Anyway, sixth-placed Scarlets managed well enough last weekend when they saw off the Drag
ons, at Parc y Scarlets, on Stephen Jones’ 300th game in club colours and the veteran kicked 17 points for his beloved club on a weekend when he turned down the enticing invitation to play for the Barbarians against the Wallabies.
Jones’ dedication to the job in hand is indicative of the commitment that has been on show this season at a region which has also brought through some impressive talent. Indeed, Scarlets have not lost a game since the first day of October when Treviso got the better of them over in Italy.
Since then, they have put together a really impressive eight game run — seven wins and one draw at the Ospreys — which has also seen them top Pool One in the Heineken Cup after an opening home win over Castres and then their attention-grabbing result at Northampton Saints.
Their Heineken Cup double-header with Munster, which begins next week when the two-time cup winners visit Parc y Scarlets, will have a huge bearing on their continuing progress in Europe but, first, there’s the prospect of turning over Ulster for the second time this season.