Jonathan Davies has told his Scarlets teammates they need to be bold if they are to save their season in 2019.
The Wales centre has urged the region to return to the swashbuckling style of a year ago when they host the Cardiff Blues on Saturday evening.
Davies admits the Scarlets have been found wanting in recent weeks with seven defeats in their last nine matches, including four on the trot going into the latest Welsh derby.
The solution, he says, is for players to be braver and focus on the attack-minded instincts that took them to a Guinness Pro14 final and Heineken Champions Cup semi-final last season.
“It’s a case of getting back to the fundamentals that made us a force over the last couple of years,” said the Lions’ man of the series against New Zealand in 2017.
“We need to make sure that we back ourselves because we have the ability but we have to have confidence in how we are trying to play. Maybe we have just been a little bit tentative in certain areas of the field where, over the last few years, we have backed ourselves.
“The message this week has been going back to basics. We have not become a bad team, we are still a quality outfit, and we have to make sure we show that.
“We can concentrate on one competition – fighting on two fronts is difficult, especially with the injuries we have had. We have two big games at home (Blues and Dragons) and have got a proud home record we want to keep.
“You want to play in front of big crowds and, if a derby can’t get a big crowd on a Saturday before Christmas, there’s something wrong.”
Despite a lengthy injury list the Scarlets have been boosted by the return to action of star full back Leigh Halfpenny who has recovered from a concussion sustained against Australia in November. The 30-year-old starts in a potent back-three which included Tom Prydie and Johnny McNicholl, while Davies and Samoa international Kieron Fonotia form a strong midfield partnership.
With Rhys Patchell injured Wayne Pivac has opted to stick with Hadleigh Parkes at outside half while Gareth Davies holds on to the number nine shirt. Up-front Rob Evans, Ken Owens and Samson Lee start in the front-row while Josh Helps makes his first PRO14 start at lock alongside David Bulbring. Ed Kennedy, James Davies and Will Boyde form a dynamic back-row.
With both sides fighting for a place in the end of season play-off’s Cardiff Blues boss John Mulvihill insists it is paramount his side leave Llanelli with the spoils.
“Scarlets are a Championship team and they have some really good international players, and they’ll definitely try to find a win tomorrow, especially since they’re playing at home,” he said.
“We’ve been through a bit of a bad patch as well, so we understand what their mindset will be like. They will be dangerous. Hadleigh Parkes is a very direct player, and has a very long kick.
“But we have to put pressure on him in that channel and make sure he puts in as many tackles as he can and maybe take his mind away from other parts of his game. They have a very good back three, but if you have a real 10 at 10 the ball will definitely get there, so it might tighten up their game a little bit.
“Next week, we’ll be facing Ospreys, who we’re facing twice this season. If we can get a win this week hopefully it will put a bit of pressure on them and if we get a result next week too, then we’ll be right back in the mix, which is where we need to be.
“The season is in our hands because we play Ospreys twice and Connacht twice over the next few months.”
Mulvihill has made two changes to the pack, with both Brad Thyer and George Earle re-introduced into the starting line-up, as back row Olly Robinson is named on the bench.
The only other change to the starting XV sees experienced scrum half, Lloyd Williams, given the nod at number nine, replacing Tomos Williams. Newly-appointed captain, Kristian Dacey, will lead the side at Parc y Scarlets, as Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi and Nick Williams are named in a physical back row combination.
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