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Scarlets will be aiming to bank on hot Barclay

By Wayne Pivac

He could hardly have sent a clearer message back to those who had rejected his credentials to be part of the World Cup and, as it happened, the place of his choosing was entirely appropriate as well.

John Barclay marched off with the man of the match award after Scarlets had downed his former club, none other than PRO12 champions Glasgow Warriors - and at Scotstoun as well.

The result grabbed plenty of attention as the west Wales side brought to an end a 20-game home winning run in the league though, admittedly, against a squad decimated by World Cup call-ups.

But back to Barclay. Scotland coach Vern Cotter had culled him from his final World Cup squad selection and the 28-year-old back rower - who had been called up after being in the international wilderness and then scored in the warm-up thumping of Italy - certainly had a point to prove.

He did so with aplomb while togging out in the country which had brought him in, looked again and then still considered him surplus to requirements.

Scotland's decision can only be to the Scarlets' gain and Barclay - who has played over 40 times for his country and barring an injury crisis call-up looks unlikely to do so again - is an extremely valuable player at the best of times, never mind during this World Cup window.

Today, he will also lead the Welsh side, taking over from winger Hadleigh Parkes - which is fine, as leading by example comes naturally.

But the Scarlets also have the up and coming James Davies as their openside flanker.

He made an enormous impact in the win at Glasgow where the Warriors were blown away at the breakdown and were also unable to make inroads on the Welsh region's defence.

Add to that teenage out-half Dan Jones - who made his competitive debut last week - as well as 21-year-old full-back Steffan Evans and coach Wayne Pivac is rightly confident of what can be achieved this season.

Indeed, even with seven key players missing on World Cup duty, the Scarlets squad are looking in decent shape with their mix of exuberant youth and valuable experience, though, of course, they have only played one competitive game.

"We played them four times last year and had three real battles (it ended up one draw in the league and a home win for the Scarlets in Europe at the Parc y Scarlets) so we know we're in for a tough day at the office against Ulster," said Pivac.

It's hardly a huge shock that Pivac has kept the same starting side to the one that took the field at Scotstoun with the only change coming on the replacements bench with Rhodri Williams unavailable due to concussion.

Much has been made of the Scarlets' home record with Edinburgh's win there last March being the only league reverse suffered in Llanelli since Christmas 2013.

As Pivac said: "The boys love playing at home. We love getting out here in front of our supporters."

And, of course, Barclay will be keen to continue his form from last weekend and make another point regarding Cotter's call.

Belfast Telegraph


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