stephen jones scarletsThe Scarlets are intent on putting right their away record up in Edinburgh and on the back of a derby win against the Dragons last weekend will be challenging hard for points to maintain their momentum and position in the Magners League.

With competition tight at the top of the league table and only a few points separating teams placed second to fifth, the Scarlets say that their Scottish trip is a vital one to get right.

The Scarlets come into Saturday evening’s game off a hard-fought and brave win against derby rivals the Dragons (21-15) on New Year’s Day and have the confidence of some good away form this season with wins on the road against Treviso, London Irish, Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons and Aironi.

The Scarlets welcome back from injury Wales and British Lions outside half Stephen Jones (bench) and second row Lou Reed who comes straight back into the starting line-up alongside Scarlets stalwart Vernon Cooper.

The region is however, without three forwards Ken Owens, Josh Turnbull and Rob McCusker who failed late fitness tests and are being rested with minor injuries; Owens (neck), Turnbull (shoulder), McCusker (shoulder).

Wales Sevens star Richie Pugh gets his first start of the season at flanker with flair player Samoan international Jonny Fa’amatuainu continuing with a run of games for the Scarlets in the back row.

In the backs, Morgan Stoddart moves to fullback from the wing and in-form centre Gareth Maule, who has shown pace and power with five tries from his last six Scarlets appearances moves to the wing along with experienced Scottish international winger Sean Lamont.

Regan King and Jon Davies reunite their explosive centre partnership in midfield with Magners League third top point scorer this season, Rhys Priestland (115 points) taking the Scarlets number 10 jersey.

Scarlets defense Coach Simon Easterby said: “This month is a huge one for us.  We have our big European fixture against Leicester next weekend at home, then Perpignan away but we want to stay in the top section of the Magners League and as we’ve said all season, the domestic competition is hugely important and a primary focus for us.

“We’re eager to put our record right up in Edinburgh and we’ve changed a few things in terms of our preparations.  We want to go up there and get a result and we know we have a huge challenge on our hands, but we are desperate to continue our momentum in the league.  We don’t want Munster to get too far ahead of us, and want to try and keep ahead of the teams below us.

“We know that if we really want to compete this season, we have to come to tough places like Murrayfield and get results, it’s a measure of how much this team has progressed this season and we’ve told the players if they have ambitions to get something from this season, these are the types of games we have to win.

“Yes we’ve got the big Leicester game on the horizon next weekend and it’s a massive one for the team and our supporters at home – but you can’t just switch it on for Europe. Consistency in the domestic competition is equally important and if we can get a result this weekend, it will take us into Europe on a better footing.

“These Scarlets players are working very hard and want to get the best out of themselves. It’s a very focused and competitive group at the moment and they’re showing real spirit and determination.”

The Scarlets have won five of their last six matches in all competitions.They are currently placed 2nd in the Magners League on 36 points.  Edinburgh sit in 7thon 27 points.

Edinburgh have won five of their last six matches against Scarlets, and the visitors are yet to win on Edinburgh soil since rugby went regional in 2003. The Scotsmen have strong home form and have won their last five home games at Murrayfield in the Magners League.

Scarlets starting XV v Edinburgh, Murrayfield 08/01/2011, kick-off 1830: Morgan Stoddart, Gareth Maule, Regan King, Jon Davies, Sean Lamont, Rhys Priestland, Tavis Knoyle, Phil John, Matthew Rees (capt), Simon Gardiner, Vernon Cooper, Lou Reed, Jonny Fa’amatuainu, Richie Pugh, David Lyons.

Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Iestyn Thomas, Rhodri Jones, Damian Welch, Ben Morgan, Martin Roberts, Stephen Jones, Lee Williams.