Why Edinburgh need the points at Scarlets as Scotland duo return to the side

Hamish Watson starts for Edinburgh at Scarlets after being left out of Scotland's opening two Six Nations victories. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)Hamish Watson starts for Edinburgh at Scarlets after being left out of Scotland's opening two Six Nations victories. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Hamish Watson starts for Edinburgh at Scarlets after being left out of Scotland's opening two Six Nations victories. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
After falling out of the play-off places as a result of their narrow defeat by the Sharks last month, Edinburgh today face what assistant coach Stevie Lawrie believes is a “massively important” game at Scarlets.

The capital club are still only two points outside the top eight, so either way nothing conclusive will be decided in Llanelli this afternoon. But after winning just one of their last six league outings, Edinburgh need a momentum change quickly, and with a tough run of fixtures against Leinster, Connacht, Ospreys and Ulster the question may well be: if not now, when?

“We’ve got to go down there and get points,” Lawrie said yesterday. “We’ve fallen on the wrong side of a couple of tight ones and we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got an opportunity to get into the top eight and then progress from there. So it’s massively important for the club that we go down there and get the points.”

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Openside flanker Hamish Watson and hooker Dave Cherry are both back in the team after being released by Scotland, but there is no place in the squad for Sam Skinner, who had also been allowed back to train with the capital club but has now been retained by the national squad. Besides Skinner, Edinburgh are without seven players on international duty - Pierre Schoeman, WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Luke Crosbie, Blair Kinghorn and Duhan van der Merwe - and list ten others as unavailable through injury.

Nonetheless, they have been able to name a starting pack which contains seven full internationals, South African loosehead Boan Venter being the exception. Behind the scrum, Damien Hoyland returns from injury to take his place on the right wing, while Chris Dean is also back after concussion and is among the replacements.

Scarlets have five players absent with Wales - national captain Ken Owens, Wyn Jones, Rhys Patchell, Leigh Halfpenny and Kieran Hardy - and another 13 out injured. Scotland squad member Javan Sebastian is included on their bench. Currently down in 14th place, the Welsh team still have a mathematical chance of reaching the play-offs, but have surely left themselves too much to do. Their home record in the league has been particularly to blame: they have lost as many games as they have won at Parc y Scarlets, with two of their three victories coming against the only two sides below them in the table, Dragons and Zebre.

In the pool stage of the Challenge Cup, by contrast, they enjoyed a far better run of form, and beat the Cheetahs and Bayonne home and away to qualify for the knockout stages with ease. Lawrie believes it is unwise to pay too much attention to those reverses suffered by today’s opponents in the league, and thinks that those Challenge Cup performances have offered a more accurate picture of Scarlets’ ability. “I think their form has definitely turned the corner,” he added. “They seem galvanised, and we’re going to see a really motivated Scarlets team.”

Lawrie knows that his own team, too, will need to be “really motivated” if they are to get the result they need. “We need to make sure that we go down there and we get stuck in, and show the best of us and whatever it takes to get over that line,” he concluded. “That’s all that matters.”

Scarlets: J McNicholl; S Evans, J Roberts, I Nicholas, R Conbeer; S Costelow, G Davies; K Mathias, S Evans, S Wainwright, M Jones, S Lousi, V Fifita, D Davis, S Kalamafoni (captain). Substitutes: T Davies, S Thomas, J Sebastian, B Williams, C Tuipulotu, D Blacker, D Jones, E James.

Edinburgh: W Goosen; D Hoyland, M Bennett, J Lang, J Blain; C Savala, C Shiel; B Venter, D Cherry (captain), M McCallum, G Young, J Hodgson, N Haining, H Watson, V Mata. Substitutes: A McBurney, J Jack, L Atalifo, M Sykes, C Boyle, B Vellacott, J van der Walt, C Dean.



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