Scarlets will take on the Dragons on New Year’s Day in their second Guinness PRO14 derby clash of the festive season.
Head coach Glenn Delaney spoke to the media ahead of the match-up at Parc y Scarlets. Here’s what he had to say.
Glenn, first of all, a reaction to Jake Ball’s decision, how big a loss will he be?
GD: “He will be a massive loss to us. He is a hell of a bloke, great around the club, we love him to bits here and he is at the top of his game as well, he is playing really well. I guess it puts everything into context, though, family comes first and that is a massive part of what we are about here. We understand the decision. He is playing with a smile on his face at the moment and will continue to do that for the rest of the season. He will be a big set of boots to fill.”
What is the latest injury update?
GD: “We have got pretty strong availability. Liam Williams, Sione Kalamafoni, Tom Prydie, Sam Lousi, Paul Asquith, a whole raft of guys are back and putting their hands up. Others have come back into training who are not quite ready.”
Having Liam back must be a big boost?
GD: “We haven’t picked the team as yet, but he’s in contention. When we get round to naming the team we’ll see how the week has gone. We’ve got a few hurdles to get through – Wednesday is a big training day – but he’s in training and is taking it day by day. Our mantra around that is when they’re ready, they’re ready.
“We’ve got Ken coming back into training too after a long lay-off so having characters like those two around is great. The right game will be the one when they’re fit and healthy. That’s a conversation for me, Liam and the rehabilitation guys. We’ll see how it goes.
“Liam just wants to play. He’s worked incredibly hard and it’s nice to have him back on the training field.”
Have you had any positive Covid cases this week?
GD: “As it stands today, none. When you are testing it is a moment in time, but it is a moveable feast. We are rolling day to day, but getting through testing day and not having to change our thinking, that is the first time that has happened for a while.”
How much are you looking forward to the Dragons?
GD: “We are just praying the weather we have had recently dissipates because the ambition of all the regional teams is to play. Hopefully we will have a dry deck and a dry ball.”
How big a challenge will the Dragons pose?
“The Dragons are a side who are evolving really well, getting more confident and developing an all-court game. They have Nick Tompkins, Jamie Roberts playing well, Jack Dixon will be coming at us. They have some really good game-controllers and also have an ability to play a real power game. Their forwards are pretty tasty, there are some good, honest hard-working, tough men in that pack and some excitable back-rowers who add a lot of energy. They have a real challenging side who know how to win, know how to scrap and stay in the game. It is going to be a full-blooded encounter. Last year at Rodney Parade we got outdone, they were the better side. There are a lot of good people in that environment who are driving that team forward and they will present a really strong challenge for us on Friday. We are going to have to be 100% at the races.”
With the news that the league is finishing in March with the top two going into a final, does it change your thinking?
GD: “Derbies are always sacrosanct so nothing has changed now. The new trunk of games are going to be taking place during the Six Nations so we will be in an international window focus. Then we have the Rainbow Cup with the South Africans and that is going to be pretty exciting. We will keep working away, collecting points and look to finish as high as we can in the Conference, the competitive integrity doesn’t change.”