Scarlets v Racing 92 preview: Owens returns for Scarlets
Scarlets host Racing 92 in the European Champions Cup on Saturday: 17:30 kick-off (Sky Sports 5)
Wayne Pivac makes three changes to the side that narrowly lost against Northampton
The Welsh Province’s captain Ken Owens returns from injury
Scarlets captain Ken Owens makes a return from injury to lead the Welsh Province in their opening home game of the European Rugby Champions Cup campaign against Racing 92 this afternoon.
The inclusion of the skipper one of three changes made by head coach Wayne Pivac following their narrow 15-11 away loss to Northampton last weekend. He also brings Phil John into the front-row to play alongside Owens while young fly-half Dan Jones is handed his first Champions Cup.
The replacements bench includes Samson Lee, Dylan Evans, newcomer Michael Collins and Steffan Evans, who makes a return from an elbow dislocation.
“Following last week’s result what is a comfort to us is that we all feel that we’re not too far off. We’ve made steady progress, and that’s what we’re trying to do each week. I think we’re heading in the right direction,” Pivac said earlier in the week.
“The first two games are vital in this tournament, and it’s important that we get some points on the board early or otherwise we’re chasing the pack.
“The fact that we didn’t get four points last weekend puts more significance on this game. This evening’s game is very much a must-win situation.
“We’re expecting a big battle up front from Racing 92 and having a couple of players coming back from injury is good. We’ll be slightly stronger than last week.”
Meanwhile, their French visitors will be kicking off their European campaign after having their original opener called off last weekend due to the attacks in Paris.
The Scarlets have happy memories from the pairs recent encounters, having won in Paris and drawn at home when the sides were drawn together during the 2013/14 installment of the competition. They’ve raced out of the blocks this year, meaning we fancy to shock the French side at Parc y Scarlets, but it will be a close game. Scarlets by 3.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Scarlets: DTH van der Merwe
The Canadian has made an explosive start to his time in Wales, impressing in whatever position he has been selected in. He has the uncanny ability to score a try out almost nothing and may be the hosts best chance of breaking through the resilient French visitors defence in what is set to be a closely contested game.
Racing 92: Bernard le Roux
The passionate South African born-French International is a core cog in Racing 92’s very experienced starting XV. Although his performances at the 2015 Rugby World Cup were nothing to write home about, the back-row has looked sharp in recent weeks, winning a shed load of turnovers. The 26-year-olds ability to steal the ball at the breakdown may prove key to the visitors relieving pressure when they are on the back foot
Scarlets: 15 Aled Thomas, 14 Michael Tagicakibau, 13 Gareth Owen, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 John Barclay, 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Maselno Paulino, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Peter Edwards, 2 Ken Owens (c), 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Dylan Evans, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Tom Price, 20 Lewis Rawlins, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Mike Collins, 23 Steff Evans.
Racing 92: 15 Johan Goosen, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Henry Chavancy, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Remi Tales, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Wenceslas Lauret, 6 Bernard Le Roux, 5 Francois van der Merwe, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski (c), 1 Julien Brugnaut.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Ben Tameifuna, 19 Thibault Dubarry, 20 Yannick Nyanga, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 Juan Imhoff, 23 Brice Dulin
Date: Saturday, November 21
Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Kick-off: 17:15 GMT
Referee: Greg Garner (England)
Assistant Referees: Dean Richards (England), Peter Allan (Scotland)
TMO: Keith Lewis (England