Iestyn Rees handed Scarlets debut for Rainbow Cup opener

Rob LloydNews

Scarlets will kick-off their Rainbow Cup campaign with a side containing a mixture of youth and international experience.

Hooker Ryan Elias will lead the side for the first time, while there is a welcome return to action for fellow Wales front-rower Rob Evans, who has recovered from concussion issues.

In all, there are 13 personnel changes from the team that took the field for the Champions Cup loss against Sale Sharks earlier this month.

Johnny McNicholl switches from wing to full-back with Tom Rogers and Steff Evans coming in out wide.

In the centre, former Dragon Tyler Morgan partners British & Irish Lion Jonathan Davies, while Sam Costelow starts at fly-half, linking up with Dane Blacker at half-back.

Alex Jeffries is handed his first PRO14 start for the club at tight-head prop, packing down with Elias and Evans in the front row.

Behind them, Jake Ball provides more international experience alongside rising talent Morgan Jones – announced this week as having agreed his first professional contract with the Scarlets.

There is also a new-look back row of Scotland international Blade Thomson, Springbok Uzair Cassiem and 21-year-old Iestyn Rees, who will make his Scarlets debut.

Llandeilo product Rees was part of the Wales U20s squad at the Junior World Championships in Argentina in 2019 and is another of the highly-regarded forwards coming through the ranks at Parc y Scarlets.

Rees was due to feature in the Champions Cup tie against Toulon in December only for the match to be postponed at the 11th hour.

On the bench, Daf Hughes, Steff Thomas and Werner Kruger provide front-row cover and they are joined by Lewis Rawlins, 20-year-old back-rower Carwyn Tuipulotu, Wales international scrum-half Kieran Hardy – who has recovered from the hamstring injury he suffered in the win over England – Angus O’Brien and Steff Hughes.

Scarlets won on their last PRO14 visit to Newport in August, scoring six tries in a 41-20 victory.

Scarlets team v Dragons (Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup; Rodney Parade, Sun, April 25 13:00 Premier Sports)

15 Johnny McNicholl; 14 Tom Rogers, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 Steff Evans; 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Dane Blacker; 1 Rob Evans, 2 Ryan Elias (capt), 3 Alex Jeffries, 4 Jake Ball, 5 Morgan Jones, 6 Blade Thomson, 7 Iestyn Rees, 8 Uzair Cassiem.

Reps: 16 Dafydd Hughes, 17 Steff Thomas, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Lewis Rawlins, 20 Carwyn Tuipulotu, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Angus O’Brien, 23 Steff Hughes.

Unavailable because of injury

Johnny Williams (shoulder), Dan Jones (ankle), Rhys Patchell (hamstring), Tom Prydie (foot), Josh Macleod (Achilles), Dan Davis (hamstring), Tomi Lewis (knee), Samson Lee (concussion), James Davies (concussion), Danny Drake (ankle), Ioan Nicholas (ankle).