Confident Whites set for Carmarthen Quins examination
SWANSEA, buoyed by their derby win at The Gnoll, will be aiming to halt the unbeaten charge of Carmarthen Quins in what promises to be an intriguing Principality Premiership clash at St Helen's tomorrow (2.30pm).
The All Whites, who finished bottom of the pile last season, have looked a much-improved outfit this term and were good value for their 23-21 win over old rivals Neath on Sunday.
The victory was based on a dominant scrum spearheaded by Ospreys props Nicky Thomas and Nicky Smith, while new Wales cap Dan Baker was a key figure at No. 8.
"We have been on the wrong end of forward dominance a number of times in recent seasons, so it was nice to have that ascendancy especially at somewhere like the Gnoll," said team manager Ian Hopkins.
The Whites, though, will be wary of a Quins side who have shot out of the blocks with three impressive victories.
"We played them two weeks in succession last season and lost by 40 points on both occasions, so we are aware of the quality they have," added Hopkins.
The Quins, meanwhile are refusing to get carried away by their unbeaten start to the campaign.
"The first impressions are very promising — there's no getting away from that," said rugby manager Steffan Thomas.
"But we'll take it one step at a time. After our next two games we'll have played our first block of five games and we'll have a break. We'll reassess things then. Swansea also seem to have advanced from last year — they've got two very powerful props and a good scrum.
"They've had some good results so I'm expecting a tough game."
The Quins welcome back Wales sevens players James Davies, Jason Harries and former Scarlets flyer Lee Williams, who makes his first appearance of the season following a foot injury.
Llanelli host Bridgend at Parc y Scarlets and despite the Ravens having lost both their Premiership fixtures to date — including a 43-17 defeat at Llandovery last weekend — head of rugby Anthony Buchanan isn't taking anything for granted.
"It sounds like a tuning, but there's no doubt Bridgend are a side capable of pulling a result out of the bag," said the former Wales prop. "We'll have to make sure we're at the top of our game."
Llanelli make a raft of changes from their 26-20 win at Rodney Parade with 19-year-old flanker Owain Morgan given an opportunity to impress at openside.
Neath welcome Bedwas to The Gnoll with both sides looking for their first win of the campaign.
Head coach Neil Edwards will leave it late to confirm his team, although his squad does include Ospreys Academy winger Ashleigh Evans, who starred for Wales Under-20s at the Junior World Championships this summer, and Canadian international scrum-half Phil Mack, recently signed as short-term cover by the Ospreys. Full-back Ceri Young, prop Nicky Downs and lock Jonny Griffiths are also in the selection mix.
Edwards said: "We very much need a win to get our season moving, but we are mindful that Bedwas are always one of the most combative sides in the Premiership."
As for Aberavon, they will be keen to bounce back from defeat in Carmarthen when they host Cardiff at the Talbot Athletic Ground. The Wizards haven't lost at home since January.
CARMARTHEN QUINS: H. Thomas; L. Williams, D. Morgan, R. Williams (capt), J. Harries; C. Evans, R. Wells; G. Thomas, R. Guest, T. Davies, C. Jones. H. Pugh, S. Bennett, R. Gallagher, J. Davies. Reps: G. Robinson, R. Clancy, J. Sebastian, L. Joseph, W. Boyde, C. Banfield, P. Rushesha, I. Evans.
LLANELLI: D. Lewis; K. Evans, S. Evans, Jonny Lewis, J. Adams; Josh Lewis, J. Evans; R. Thomas, K. Myhill, B. Leung, A. Powell (capt), R. Kelly, C. Price, S. Leach, O. Morgan. Reps: tba.
NEATH: from G. Bateman, J. Collier, S. Crocker, G. Daniel, C. Davies, B. Davies, J. Davies, N. Downs, A. Evans, D. Ford, J. Goode, J. Griffiths, A. Jenkins, C. Jones, J. Jones, M. Jones, Rhys Jones, Roy Jones, D. Langdon, J. Leyshon, P. Mack, K. Mattocks, A. Roberts, J. Smith, K. Tayler, L. Ward, C. Young.