JOHN IS SEEING FRUITS OF LABOUR
"YOU didn't see the two minutes after it", joked Phil John when asked about the brilliant cover tackle he produced late on in last weekend's win over Treviso.
With 67 minutes on the clock John can be seen galloping the best part of 30 metres to track back and collar centre Michele Campagnaro to snuff out a threatening Treviso offensive.
It was enough for the popular prop to edge out Gareth Davies and Steve Shingler for the official Pro12 man-of-the-match award, capping an eye-catching all-round display that must have had forwards coach Danny Wilson purring.
"It is nice to get one in the bank early in the season," smiled John ahead of this evening's clash with the Dragons in Newport (7.15).
"I thought the game suited my type of play, there were a few scrums, but it was pretty open as well and I like to carry the ball and work around the park — it is what I thrive on.
"As for that tackle, I was walking everywhere for the two minutes after it!"
John played in every league match for the Scarlets last season, starting in all but the opening two.
"For me it is nice to get the starts under my belt," he added. " I missed pre-season last season because of shoulder surgery, but I have had a good pre-season this year and have worked harder than I probably have in a while and you can see results."
It says much for the performance of John and his fellow front-rowers that after two rounds of the Pro12 season, the main talk among pundits discussing the West Wales region has not been the return of British Lion Jonathan Davies or fly-half Rhys Priestland, but the scrummaging prowess of the Scarlets eight.
Wilson spoke in detail before the Treviso game how he felt the loose-head, and in particular, an attacking loose-head like John would benefit from the new scrum engagement rules.
And the New Dock Stars product proved him good to his word.
He gave Italian international Lorenzo Cittadini, a man with 24 caps for the Azzurri, a torrid time and ensured the home set-piece was on the front foot throughout.
And he is hoping that same attacking weapon can be used to maintain the Scarlets' impressive record against the Dragons — they have won their last 10 in the Pro12 — at Rodney Parade tonight.
"With the new laws, it is all about scrummaging legally, it goes back to playing by the rules," he said. "I think in the past you have seen tight-heads take advantage of the loose-heads not binding, now the new laws are going to be a massive help for the loose-head.
"The set-piece has gone well for us in the first two games and perhaps sides have not had much chance to have a look at us over the summer.
"Samson (Lee) works hard, he is a good young prop coming through and takes on all advice you give him. It is disappointing to lose Deacon for three months because he is a senior player, but we also have Jacobie (Adriaanse), who is a quality prop and Rhodri Jones as well who is starting to cover the tight-head spot.
"What is important is as a team we make sure we have the right mix in our game. We have got some great backs, but we have also got to be able to step it up and keep it tight for a bit as well.
"It will be a tough game against the Dragons. It is the first derby of the season, they will be well coached and I am expecting a good battle up front.
"There is always an atmosphere at Rodney Parade with all the fans right on the touchline and hopefully we can rise to the occasion. There was massive pressure on us last week and it was pleasing to come away with the result. We want to carry it into tonight."
John has been named in a Scarlets side showing three personnel changes from the 26-10 victory over Treviso.
With Scotland international openside John Barclay making his debut in a Scarlets jersey, Josh Turnbull drops to the bench, while Jake Ball comes in for South African Joe Snyman at lock.
Behind the scrum Steve Shingler — yet to miss a kick at goal in two matches — switches to full-back to accommodate the return of British Lion Jonathan Davies, who makes his first start of the campaign. Rob McCusker retains the captaincy.
"We've got a number of talented players in our backs who can readily adapt to different positions on the field; it's important that we get as much quality and experience on the field as possible and we'll work with different combinations to suit our game plan," said head coach Simon Easterby.
"We want to uphold our strong Welsh derby record and these players know how vital it is to us to get a good result at Rodney Parade.
"They also are fully aware of the challenge that faces us in front of a vocal support in Newport. The Dragons will come out with confidence and want to back up two good performances in front of their home crowd.
"The derbies always have an extra edge to them and with Lyn (Jones) and Kingsley (Jones) on board, we know how well-prepared and up for this game their players will be."