Easterby predicts Vallejos to be real hit
TOMAS Vallejos may have only been in Llanelli a couple of weeks, but already he is drawing comparisons to one of the Scarlets favourite sons.
"Someone likened him to Chris Wyatt in the way he plays," said head coach Simon Easterby.
"Chris, on his day, was one of the best second rows in the world so if he can do half as well as Chris did down here I will be more than happy."
Vallejos is one of four new overseas signings brought in by Easterby to bolster the Scarlets forward strength this season.
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The 6ft 6in Argentinean's arrival was delayed because of his participation in the Pumas' debut campaign in The Rugby Championship where he made just one appearance off the bench in the 54-15 hammering at the hands of the All Blacks in La Plata.
And so far, there has been just the lone appearance for his new side, coming on as a half-time replacement for South African George Earle in last weekend's Heineken Cup defeat to Leinster.
It was thought that Vallejos's initial stay in Llanelli would be a fleeting one.
However, the former Harlequin hasn't been named in the Pumas squad to take on Wales on November 10 and unless Santiago Phelan's side pick up injuries during their three-Test northern hemisphere tour, Vallejos could be around for the duration of the campaign, rather than heading off following next weekend's Pro12 clash with basement side Zebre.
"Tomas has been excellent so far," said Easterby. "He is an athletic line-out forward with good speed for a second row and good all-round skills.
"We watched him a lot at Harlequins last season. He featured a lot for the first half of the season, then didn't get much game time towards the end. He was on the bench, but didn't come on in the Premiership final at Twickenham.
"He looked like a good footballer. We were looking to tighten things up with a couple of our signings, but also we were looking for that balance in the second row as well.
"When you look at locks there are two kinds, a tight-head scrummaging lock, someone who is going to win you ball at the front of the line-out and a loose-head lock who plays a bit looser by definition. Tomas is a different second row to say George (Earle) or Johan (Snyman).
"The language is also not a problem, he has probably better English than Chris did!"
While Vallejos now looks set to stay on in Llanelli, Tongan lock Sione Timani will be absent for November after being named in his country's squad for their four-match tour.
But at least Easterby does have plenty of depth in his second row pool with Earle, Snyman, Richard Kelly and Jake Ball also available.
His options at hooker, a position of strength at the start of the season, are less plentiful.
Wales internationals Ken Owens and Matthew Rees are available this weekend, but with Emyr Phillips (chest) and Kirby Myhill (dislocated finger) currently sidelined, next weekend's Parc y Scarlets clash with Zebre could be an issue.
"We are hoping Kirby will be available. He dislocated his wedding ring finger and is four weeks into a six-week injury at the moment," said Easterby. "It is not his throwing hand and while binding might be an issue we have found a brace for him.
"We also have Craig Hawkins who is going well for Llanelli. He brings lots of energy and experience and hopefully Emyr will be on the verge of returning by the end of November, early December. He is making good strides in his rehab."