The Opposition View is back ahead of Friday’s game and this week I welcome Hywel from the Scarlets rugby blog @thescarletway (www.scarletsrugbyblog.blogspot.co.uk). Some interesting views on this season’s Turk outfit and a very diplomatic response to the answer regarding Wayne Pivac!
How would you sum up your 2015/16 season overall?
W 14 L 8 PF 477 PA 458 TF 45 TA 54 TBP 2 LBP 5
Scarlets finished 5th in the Pro12
Hmmm…tricky one. We flattered to deceive. A great start due to the World Cup masked some of our deficiencies later on. Europe was a disaster, we were embarrassed by Glasgow and humiliated by Racing Metro. After Christmas, barring a rare win at the Liberty, we were very, very poor.
Are you pleased with your new signings?
Jonathan Davies (Clermont), Werner Kruger (Bulls), Jonathan Evans (Bath), Rynier Bernardo (Ospreys), Tadhg Beirne (Leinster), Nicky Thomas (Gloucester), Johnny McNicholl (Crusaders), Rhys Patchell, Tom Williams, Richard Smith (Cardiff Blues)
Very pleased to get Foxy back (albeit on a part-time basis) and McNicholl looks hugely exciting (although personally I feel the money could have been better spent elsewhere). Patch has been a mixed bag so far, don’t get me wrong I think he’s a terrific player and seems a good bloke too, but Sale aside – is he a 10? The jury is out. Jonathan Evans looks a fantastic bit of business, for me he’s a clear number two to Gareth Davies.
As for Rynier Bernardo and Richard Smith – can someone please tell me what the point was? (WHAT?! Ed.) Neither has had a sniff and appear about as popular with Pivac as a fart in a lift. In Bernardo’s case we appear to have found George Earle’s replacement on the naughty step. I’m quietly optimistic about the signing of Nicky Thomas, although he has much to prove if he is going to be considered anything more than a talented hopeful.
Where would you say your team’s strengths and weaknesses lie?
Strengths? Good question. When we get good quality front foot ball we look a handful. Scotty and Foxy are improving all the time and they have the potential along with DTH, Liam and Steff to carve teams open at will. Add to this the enormously talented (but hugely erratic) pairing of Gareth Davies and Patch and there is undoubted potential.
We like to play a wide game that sees Cubby out in the wide channels where he is hugely effective. Our best performance this season was against Sale and it is no surprise that Ball was playing – he adds real grunt to our forward play.
Weaknesses – we are a very lightweight pack without Ball, Allen and Rob Evs (watch out for Wyn Jones – a real find), and we lack carriers and go forward. Our scrum (without Ball and Samson) is likely to struggle and Kruger looks a weak tighthead. Defensively we are poor, most teams are able to score against us and our maul defence has been an Achilles heel for a while.
How do you rate your coach?
Former Fiji head coach has been at Scarlets since 2014
Ha! I’m going to be careful here. I’m unconvinced. I hope he proves to be very successful for us, but as it stands I haven’t seen a huge amount of progress from 2014. I’m also hugely concerned that he hasn’t yet understood the need for heavyweight forwards – particularly during the winter months. We manned up against Sarries but, if we are honest, they beat us in second gear. This game is huge for us.
He seems to fall out with a lot of players and the feeling is that he perhaps puts personal issues ahead of what is best for the team. That said – you can see that when we play we look good – those glimpses are just all too fleeting.
Who do you see as your star player?
Star player – easy – Liam and Scott Williams. They are sensational rugby changers. Game changers.
How has this season gone so far?
Against Sale we were great. Really good for an hour. Howeverm yet again we failed to show a killer instinct when we should have got the bonus point. Aside from that it’s been lacklustre just as it was for much of last season. The Dragons should have beaten us at PyS. We came back well but they could have been out of sight by half-time.
Liam saved is against Connacht and we made heavy going of it out in Zebre. Sarries are great but some of our defence was very weak.
What is the aim for this season?
The aim was top four and a much improved showing in Europe. Top six looks a more realistic target now and we need to ensure that we win our home games. The next two against you and Glasgow will signpost where we are headed.
What is your prediction for our game?
A 15-37 win for the Turks! Ha! With no Welsh players with us and Cubby likely to be injured I have to say I’m not hopeful. Wilson did a job on Pivac twice last season and I think Friday will be no different. I hope I’m wrong but I’m saying a 24-16 win for Cardiff. (The first prediction of a loss for the opposition this season! Ed.)
Thanks again to Hywel who you can catch here (@thescarletway www.scarletsrugbyblog.blogspot.co.uk). Sure to be a great game on Friday, with or without the Team Wales players, so get on down to CAP to enjoy the atmosphere. Come on Cardiff!!