Euro shake-up adds extra spice to Pro12, says Scarlets coach Simon Easterby
SCARLETS head coach Simon Easterby believes the proposed changes to qualification for next year's European competition will add extra spice to the Pro12 battle this season.
The likelihood of the Rugby Champions Cup taking over from the Heineken Cup is gathering momentum by the day with reports suggesting a peace deal is imminent.
And if a resolution is agreed, it will mean only seven Pro12 sides will be involved in the top tier of Europe next season.
The proposals outlined are that each country will have at least one representative, leaving the others decided on league positions.
At the moment, the Scarlets, in seventh spot in the table, will miss out on automatic qualification, but Easterby believes the changes will be a positive one for the Pro12.
"If it happens I think it will be a good thing for the competition, there aren't going to be many dead rubbers come the end of the season," he said. "It is a fair way of creating the best European competition with the best teams in it and we have been made aware of this for a few weeks. It is no surprise; it has been talked about for a while, particularly by the English and French clubs and it adds a little bit of extra incentive and pressure.
"At the end of the day, after last season, we would expect to be competing for that top four anyway.
"We have put ourselves into a position at the moment where we need to start winning games. It is still early days, but it is going to be interesting later in the season and that is what you want."
With that in mind, Easterby will hope his side can inject some impetus into their Pro12 campaign and hoist themselves into the top half of the table when they host in-form Ulster at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday evening.
They are likely to without their seven-strong Wales contingent, while a late decision will be made on flanker John Barclay, who has been training with the Scotland national squad this week.
Rob McCusker is again absent as he recovers from a calf tear and with co-skipper Jonathan Davies in camp with Wales, the captain's armband is set to be handed to either prop Phil John or lock George Earle, who have both led the side before.
On the plus side, wing Jordan Williams is available after missing the disappointing 16-16 draw with Zebre in Italy with a shoulder strain, handing Easterby an extra option as he attempts to cover for five of his first-choice back division.
Ulster, who have won their last six matches in all competitions, are also hit by international calls and injuries with South African lock and skipper Johann Muller ruled out for up to six weeks with a torn calf muscle.
Meanwhile, new Kiwi signing Frazier Climo is set to arrive in Llanelli this weekend and will make his Scarlets debut during the opening two rounds of the LV= Cup.