by Ben Jones
Scarlets versus Toulon in the Champions Cup
Date: Friday, December 18 2020
Venue: Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli
Time: 17:30 PM
SCARLETS welcome French giants Toulon to Llanelli as history looks to repeat itself once more in the Heineken Champions Cup.
The two sides have become all too friendly with one another over recent years, and they meet again this season in the reformatted Champions Cup.
Scarlets began their European campaign with an impressive but gutsy performance away at Premiership side Bath. Two tries – with one coming from Gareth Davies on his 200th appearance for the Turks – and 13 points from the boot of Leigh Halfpenny meant they travelled back down the M4 with a winning start.
Toulon’s fortunes were the same as they beat Sale Sharks 26-12 at the Stade Mayol in the first game for Sale without director of rugby Steve Diamond. A try apiece for wingers Gabin Villiere and Ramiro Moyano and 16 points from fly-half Louis Carbonel was enough to defeat their English opponents.
It wasn’t all that long ago since the two sides met, September 19 of this year where Toulon came away with an 11-6 win in the Champions Cup quarter finals.
The game is being played at the Parc y Scarlets where the stars seem to be aligning for the Welsh side. In perhaps their best game against each other back in January 2018, Toulon visited Llanelli but left empty handed after the Scarlets beat them 30-27 in front of the biggest ever crowd the stadium had seen.
Wayne Barnes was referee that day when a last second drop goal from Francois Trinh-Duc fell just short to hand the home side the win, and the Englishman will be in charge again Friday night as the two do duel once more.
The Scarlets have made ten changes to the side that beat Bath at the Rec last Saturday.
Jonathan Davies returns to the starting XV, as is fellow Wales teammate Jonny McNicholl. Tom Rogers features in his European debut on the wing due to Steff Evans being unavailable whilst he suffers with a stomach bug.
There is a new-look second row with Morgan Jones and Tevita Ratuva taking the number five and six jerseys, whilst Josh Macleod replaces Jac Morgan in the back row after the latter suffered knee ligament damage in last weekend’s fixture.
Kieran Hardy takes over at scrum half from double-centurion Gareth Davies, whilst Dan Jones retains his number 10 jersey. Captain Steff Hughes is partnered in midfield by the returning Jonathan Davies.
The Scarlets have also been forced into making two changes with Jake Ball and Samson Lee still going through HIA protocol, meaning they won’t be ready for Friday’s encounter.
Speaking to the club website, coach Glenn Delaney spoke about the challenge Toulon pose to the region.
“They are a handful. They are very, very big and have got good athletes as well. They are a better team than when we played them last time, I think, They still have the power game, Eben Etzebeth, Romain Taofifenua, Sergio Parisse, who is still playing like the Sergio of old.
“They are a really dangerous team to play. We got close last time, we just didn’t execute in the back end. We have to make sure we are in the hunt to do that and take those chances when they come.”
SCARLETS: 15) Leigh Halfpenny; 14) Johnny McNicholl, 13) Jonathan Davies, 12) Steff Hughes (C), 11) Tom Rogers; 10) Dan Jones, 9) Kieran Hardy; 1) Wyn Jones, 2) Ryan Elias, 3) Javan Sebastian, 4) Morgan Jones, 5) Tevita Ratuva, 6) Ed Kennedy, 7) Josh Macleod, 8) Uzair Cassiem.
Replacements: 16) Marc Jones, 17) Kemsley Mathias, 18) Pieter Scholtz, 19) Iestyn Rees, 20) Dan Davis, 21) Gareth Davies, 22) Angus O’Brien, 23) Tyler Morgan.
TOULON: 15) Duncan Paia’Aua; 14) Ramiro Moyano, 13) Isaia Toeava, 12) Ma’a Nonu, 11) Gabin Villiere; 10) Louis Carbonel, 9) Baptiste Serin; 1) Jean-Baptiste Gros, 2) Christopher Tolofua, 3) Emerick Setiano, 4) Brian Alainu’uese, 5) Romain Taofifenua, 6) Swan Rebbadj, 7) Charles Ollivon (C), 8) Facundo Isa.
Replacements: 16) Bastien Soury, 17) Luka Tchelidze, 18) Jérémy Boyadjis, 19) Thomas Jolmès, 20) Julien Ory, 21) Théo Dachary, 22) Anthony Meric, 23) Masivesi Dakuwaqa.