Thursday 19 September 2019

Scarlets targeting Leinster scalp to build momentum

Rhys Priestland is back from Wales duty for Scarlets
Rhys Priestland is back from Wales duty for Scarlets
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

A week before Ireland's crunch Six Nations clash in Cardiff, the four provinces all travel to Wales seeking to continue their push for a play-off spot.

For Scarlets, tomorrow's meeting with Leinster signals the end of a run against the Irish teams.

A win (Connacht), a loss (Ulster) and a draw (Munster) typified their inconsistent season to date but they are by no means out of the running for a top six finish just yet.

For second-row Lewis Rawlins, it has been a case of taking advantage of the fact that Jake Ball is on international duty, and he has done that.

Rawlins only made his first start for Scarlets last December but under Kiwi coach Wayne Pivac, he has grown into a key part of the Welsh side's lineout during this international period.

"I'm enjoying playing rugby for the Scarlets at the moment. Wayne has given me an opportunity and I've got a bit of confidence from that," Rawlins says.

"When Jake comes back, it's going to be tough. I'm just hoping I can keep myself in the mix."

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Five consecutive starts highlights Rawlins' form, especially with South Africans George Earle and Johan Snyman competing for a place in the second-row.

The 24-year-old was also given the nod for the Champions Cup visit of star-studded French giants Toulon to Parc y Scarlets, and it was a special memory for him.

"That was probably the best moment I've had so far - looking around the pitch and just being on the same pitch with those players was a surreal feeling," he enthuses. "I was really nervous before that game in particular because I was starting."

Pivac and Scarlets are set to be boosted by the return of Gareth Davies, Rhys Priestland and Scott Williams, who have all been released by Wales to play.

On the other hand, flanker Aaron Shingler will miss the rest of the season after damaging his shoulder in the 25-20 defeat to Ulster last time out.

Frazier Climo underwent surgery last week after he fractured his right fibula and dislocated his right ankle and he will also face a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Heavy

Scarlets have won just one of their last four meetings with Leinster, their latest heavy defeat (42-12) coming last September at the RDS.

Despite their poor record against the defending champions, Rawlins knows that a win tomorrow would set them up nicely for the remainder of the season.

"We've been concentrating on this block of four Irish games," he says.

"If we can pick up the win we'll be in a good position for the rest of the season and challenge for the sixth spot."

Pivac echoes those sentiments by saying: "We've been playing well at home and we need to get another good performance at home to finish this month of Irish games and then we get a break.

"Leinster is a big game for us in the context of our season.

"In terms of where we want to finish it's important and a must win for us.

"I think we're making good in-roads. I think there have been improvements in the last three games."

Irish Independent

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