Tuesday 18 June 2019

Pivac expecting massive task against Europe's 'form horse'

Garrowen A clash with Lansdowne in the final four at Aviva Stadium tomorrow. (stock image)
Garrowen A clash with Lansdowne in the final four at Aviva Stadium tomorrow. (stock image)
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

The knock-on effect of beating Leinster in their own back yard in the PRO12 semi-final last year, and then going on to win the final at the Aviva, is that the Scarlets do not hold any fear of travelling to Dublin this weekend.

The Welsh side were somewhat underrated when they rocked up the RDS for the last-four clash, and Leinster ended up paying a huge price against 14 men after Steff Evans was sent off.

Scarlets have gone from strength to strength again this season, and under the hugely impressive Wayne Pivac they are playing some scintillating rugby.

Pivac has since emerged as the front-runner to replace Wayne Gatland as Wales boss and it is little wonder judging by the manner in which he has transformed the Scarlets' fortunes.

This time around, Leinster won't need to be reminded about the dangers of taking their eye off the ball, especially not after being stunned at home to Benetton last weekend.

"We know it is going to be a massive task," Pivac, the Scarlets head coach, warned.

"Leinster are the form horse. We have got to be at our best. Our discipline has got to be right up there. It is going to be a quality match and a massive occasion.

"You are going to get periods in games when you get opportunities. We need to capitalise by taking points when they are on offer.

"Hopefully we will have about 5,000 fans there, which will be great. For us, it is a semi-final, it is an opportunity."

There have been some murmurings of discontent about the fact that the 'neutral' venue for tomorrow's mouthwatering clash, is being held at the Aviva, which Scott Williams has described as "basically Leinster's home ground."

Scarlets won't be getting to sidetracked by it, particularly because they beat Munster at the same venue in the PRO12 final, yet Williams did point out the issue.


"The Aviva is not exactly a neutral venue, it's basically Leinster's home ground," the centre insisted.

"But we went to their home patch in the semi-final last year and won. They've got some outstanding players and more importantly, players who are playing well."

Williams, who will join the Ospreys next season, also admitted that the Scarlets were frustrated by constantly being underrated by people.

"Yes, it has annoyed us," 27-year-old maintained.

"It was the same last year when nobody expected us to win, but we knew we could do it.

"The bookies have ruled us out completely. We can't gamble ourselves as players, but I think we are 5/1 to beat Leinster and 9/1 to win the whole competition.

"If I had £20 spare I'd definitely put it on us beating Leinster and winning the whole thing.

"We want to win both competitions and we can do that. We've fronted up in the big games over the last few seasons and we now really thrive on those challenges.

"There is no damage limitation involved with us, we are going out there to win and we are confident we can do that.

"It's not going to be easy, but if we play the way we know we can, as we did against Bath for example, then we can beat Leinster."

Williams expects the hosts to pose plenty of threats to his Scarlets side but he pointed to the key man who needs to be stopped.

The powerful midfielder is no stranger to running down Johnny Sexton's out-half channel, and Williams also knows the importance of shutting him down.

"Johnny Sexton is their go-to guy and he seems to control the way they are trying to play. Hopefully he has an off-day against us," he added.

"It's about making sure we execute the way we want to play, but you never know whether it might be raining so we may have to revert to a tighter game.

"It's about being smart and making the right call at the time, but we will be focusing on ourselves more than anything."

Irish Independent

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