Scarlets coach Simon Easterby to assess injured stars ahead of crunch clash with Leinster
THE Scarlets will today assess their walking wounded ahead of what head coach Simon Easterby has admitted is a ‘must-win’ clash against defending champions Leinster in Llanelli on Saturday.
The West Walians returned from Clermont nursing the wounds of a 49-16 Pool 5 defeat as well as a long list of injury concerns.
Jonathan Davies, Liam Williams, Scott Williams and Aaron Shingler picked up knocks during a bruising contest, while skipper Rob McCusker needed lengthy treatment after taking a shuddering hit at a ruck in the second half.
McCusker later insisted he was OK, but Easterby was remaining tight-lipped about the full extent of his casualty list.
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“We have picked up a few bumps and we will need to assess those this week,” he said.
“As much as the loss is disappointing we have come away with a couple of injuries as well which is difficult to deal with, especially with another massive game against Leinster coming up.
“It is a must win, you lose your first game and win your second you are still in the competition. It puts pressure on us, but it is still in our hands, like every team in the competition.
“We took a bit of a beating in the end which will be tough to take. The players in the changing room, to a man, were bitterly disappointed, but it was one of six games and this group is still very much alive and we are very much alive in it.”
Saturday’s match was transformed by the 37th-minute sending off of wing Morgan Stoddart for two technical yellow card offences. Easterby later insisted he felt the dismissal by Irish official Peter Fitzgibbon was harsh.
The result leaves the Scarlets bottom of Pool 5 after the opening round of matches, meaning Saturday’s clash with Celtic rivals Leinster could define the region’s European campaign.
“It’s definitely a make-or-break game for us,” said McCusker. “We were hoping to get something out of Clermont so we have to start again.
“We’ve already beaten Leinster once this year so they will be looking to get some revenge for that as well as keeping their campaign on track.
“It’s a good one to pick us up.”
Reflecting on Saturday’s game, McCusker added: “It’s disappointing, somebody who didn’t watch the game would see the scoreline and it looks like a hammering.
“We rocked their boat and stuck to our gameplan. We knew it was going to be a real physical game and we matched them in the first half.
“But credit to Clermont, they made full use of their numerical advantage in the second half.
“They attacked us down Morgan’s wing and took all their chances.
“We were confident at half-time, even with 14 men, that we could do something and get something out of the match. We were better than the scoreline reflected.
“But it’s great we have a short turnaround to bounce back against the reigning champions at home.”