The Scarlets face “our biggest game in the last three years” when they clash with Leicester Tigers at Parc y Scarlets in a crucial Heineken Cup Pool 5 showdown on Saturday evening.
Only three points separate the top three in a tight and hugely competitive Pool 5, the Welsh region two points clear of the Tigers with Perpignan just another point adrift and still very much in the quarter-final qualification mix.
“No shadow of doubt about it, this is the biggest game we have faced in the last three years,” said Scarlets head coach Nigel Davies. “What makes this match against Leicester Tigers so huge is the fact that we have not been in this sort of position in the Heineken Cup during the time I have been back here and now we have 15 points from three wins with two matches to play.
“Naturally we are extremely pleased to have earned those 15 points – it was what we had targeted at this stage, so at least we are on course – while always realising you have to win your home games in the Heineken Cup. We are delighted to be where we are at the top of the group but we have worked hard to put ourselves in this position and we deserved to be there.”
“However, we appreciate that Leicester have an enormous amount of experience – on and off the pitch – and for them to come through those top end games, as they so regularly do, is huge as it certainly builds belief and confidence in a side. But we are at home, where we have a very good home record, and we all know we let ourselves down in the Round 2 match at Welford Road.”
“This match coming up is both a great fixture and a very exciting one and we will have to be at the top of our game to get anything out of the contest.”
The Scarlets crashed to a 46-10 defeat at Leicester back in October, leaking six tries overall and 33 points in the second half alone, but have won at home against Perpignan and done the home and away double over Italian champions Benetton Treviso.
For their part former double Heineken Cup champions Leicester had to be content with a share of the points against Perpignan at Welford Road in Round 4 when the French club had the last word with a 78th minute Nicolas Laharrague penalty goal.
“Against Leicester in Round 2 we were very competitive in the first half but then during a 15 minute period in the second half we had the ball but didn’t deal with the pressure they put us under and if you give a side like that half chances they generally take them and punish you,” said Davies. “It was a high intensity game against one of the best teams in Europe and we expect more of the same on Saturday, when we know we cannot afford to let our game slip for a single second.”
“Despite that result, and our recent performance against the Ospreys, we believe we are going in the right direction in the long process of developing the competitive group of players we now have.”
“Our home match against Perpignan, which produced nine tries, was a fabulous game of rugby but the away game against Treviso has been the most pleasing. Everyone knows Treviso is a very difficult place to go and win – Leicester only won there with virtually the last play of the game – and we went there with a relatively inexperienced team and came away with a hugely significant try bonus point to go with the four for the win.”
“In the Heineken Cup bonus points are massive and, come the end of Round 6, they can, and often do, make all the difference.”