Saturday 21 September 2019

'It was like a carpet burn' - Barclay blow for Scarlets as Pivac fumes over burns

Steff Evans displays his burns from the Scotstoun 4G pitch.
Steff Evans displays his burns from the Scotstoun 4G pitch.
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

As preparations for the biggest week of the club's season go, the Scarlets' plans ahead of the Guinness PRO14 final haven't exactly gone well.

On Monday, Wayne Pivac was forced to cancel the on-field training session as the head coach took the measured approach to allow several players extra time to recover from burns and blisters that they suffered as a result of Scarlets' semi-final win on Glasgow's 4G surface.

To add to that, the club yesterday confirmed that their talismanic Scottish back-row John Barclay ruptured his Achilles tendon and as a result underwent surgery earlier this week.

Barclay's absence is a major blow to the defending champions as they travel to Dublin on Saturday, looking to stop Leinster completing an historic double.

The setback is expected to sideline Barclay for up to six months, which will rule him out of Scotland's summer tour as well as the autumn Tests against Fiji, South Africa and Argentina.

It is a bitterly disappointing way for the 31-year-old's time at the Scarlets to come to an end, with Barclay joining Edinburgh next season.

"He's been fantastic for us over a number of years," Pivac said.

"As you say, he's a great leader. He led the side in the semi-final and final last year in the absence of Ken Owens, and did a great job.

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"He's a well-respected member of the group and he adds a lot - not just in his own ability at the breakdown and the work that he does in defence and the communication that he brings on the field, but he is also very good with the referee.

"That goes a long way in the big games, so look, he will be missed. Obviously it is a bit of a reshuffle.

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"We had to do that early in the semi-final so probably the bonus is that it happened early in the game, so the team that continued on had a bit of game-time together."

The reshuffling may mean that Munster-bound Tadhg Beirne switches to the back-row, with Scarlets captain Ken Owens admitting that the Kildare native was going to be a big loss for his side next season.

"Yeah, he's had a massive impact, to be fair," the Wales hooker maintained. "He came as a relative unknown. He was a boy who hadn't played a lot of PRO12 or PRO14 rugby and I think he's really matured and developed his game with the help of the coaches here.

"He's become a smarter rugby player and it says everything when you win the Players' Player of the Year and Supporters' Player of the Year awards last week. He has made a massive impact and I just think he will be a massive loss."

Pivac will be hoping that the bumps and bruises from last Friday's win will clear up in time to put his players through at least one full pitch session before the clash at the Aviva Stadium, for which tickets are still on sale.

"There are a lot of bad burns," the Kiwi explained.

"No-one trained yesterday (Monday) in terms of any rugby work on the field and there will be some who won't train today which is unfortunate, but we'll have a full training session on Thursday. It's things that won't stop them playing, but it's not ideal.

"We would always do a bit of a flush on a Monday, especially after a Friday game, but the main thing is to make the burns heal up. To run around and knock the skin off again is not the ideal situation.

"It was very bad on the weekend. It was very dry.

"I am not sure what other teams have had - we had got a lot of burns, a lot of bad grazing and blisters. It was very firm.

"It is what it is, you have got to play on them and you have got to accept, it but I am not a fan (of the 4G surface)."

Scarlets full-back Johnny McNicholl was one of the players who suffered bad burns and he added: "I have got a dozen of them. It has not been a couple of nice nights sticking to the sheets. It's not a nice pitch to play on.

"Under foot, it is good when you are doing footwork. As soon as you hit the deck it affects your joints as well. I'd prefer not to play on them. I remember going down on the deck for the ball and I got this massive grass burn on my backside.

"It was like a carpet burn. I said to the trainer straight after with a few swear words that I felt this pitch should be illegal.

"I don't like playing on them because they are high risk for injury. I couldn't train yesterday because of the burns and my feet were numb.

"This is the only surface I have played on so I can't judge anyone. I think they would be pretty similar especially on a dry day. It heats up and it is like carpet.

"You are not meant to slide and I did a few times. It was horrible."

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