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Confident Scarlets Eyeing Semi

30th March 2007 By Munster Rugby

While everyone connected with the Llanelli Scarlets are making the right noises, paying due respect, there is no denying the air of confidence that pervades the air around Stradey Park

While everyone connected with the Llanelli Scarlets are making the right noises, paying due respect, there is no denying the air of confidence that pervades the air around Stradey Park

Mind you, one doesn’t have to stray too far from Llanelli to find support for Munster. Such is the antipithy btween the clubs in these parts that Munster supporters based in Swansea were left under no illusion where the local support lay. Firmly with the defending European champions.

Nevertheless west Wales believes that Munster’s demise in Stradey in Stradey will provide the perfect springboard for a Scarlet run to Twickenham and Andy Howell in the Western Mail outlines the reasons why.

"The Scarlets have got a stronger squad nowadays with a harder edge about them, a real match-winner in Kiwi centre Regan King and, after beating Toulouse, Ulster and London Irish home and away to emerge unbeaten from their pool, a belief that this is their year." argues Howell.

He also believes that a fired-up Stephen Jones will "be desperate to promote his case to be Wales’ first-choice outside-half ahead of young talent James Hook. His display", according to Howell, "could be crucial to the outcome," while he also feels that, "the absence of skipper Paul O’Connell, ‘the beating heart of Munster rugby’, could be significant in determining the outcome".

And Scarlets’ skipper, Irish flanker Simon Easterby, is probably another who is quietly pleased that O’Connell is missing as he believes the groundwork of a Llanelli win will be done upfront. "Obviously, Stephen and O’Gara are going to shape the game but, as always happens, the platform has to be delivered up front for Stephen and the rest of the backs to deliver."

Former New Zealand great Sean Fitzpatrick is another who forecasts a Stephen Jones orchestrated Llanelli victory, "I think the Scarlets can end Munster’s reign as European champions – if their pack performs. "Then it’s made for Jones to get the better of his battle with O’Gara and orchestrate a famous victory."

He also sees the absence of O’Connell as a determing factor,"They are going to miss O’Connell, he is a massive presence for the champions and they are going to miss him," says Fitzpatrick, "

Meanwhile Munster coach Declan Kidney finalised his bench with Anthony Foley getting the nod over John O’Sullivan.  Foley has been out of action since injurying himself against Leicester Tigers in mid January and if he makes an appearance in Stradey will be winninhg his 175th Munster cap.


 

Munster: Christian Cullen; John Kelly, Lifeimi Mafi, Trevor Halstead, Ian Dowling; Ronan O’Gara (capt), Peter
Stringer; Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes; Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll; Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, Denis Leamy. Replacements: Frankie Sheahan, Fredericio Pucciariello, Donncha Ryan, Anthony Foley, Tomas O’Leary, Jeremy Manning, Barry Murphy.

 Llanelli Scarlets: Barry Davies; Dafydd James, 13 Regan King, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Mark Jones, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Dwayne Peel, Iestyn Thomas, Matthew Rees, Deacon Manu;  Vernon Cooper,  Scott MacLeod; Simon Easterby (capt), Gavin Thomas, Alix Popham.
Replacements: Ken Owens, John Davies, Inoke Afeaki, Dafydd Jones, Liam Davies, Ceiron Thomas, Matthew Watkins.

Referee: Chris White (England)
Touch judges: Tony Spreadbury (England), Peter Huckle (England)

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