'Scarlets can cope without big stars'
SCARLETS head coach Simon Easterby is confident his squad possesses the depth to cope with 14 players being away on international duty over the next month.
The West Wales region will take on Pro12 strugglers Zebre at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday evening minus 12 players who are in Poland with the Welsh training squad. They will also lose Fiji prop Deacon Manu and Tonga lock Sione Timani after this weekend.
In the past, the Scarlets would have struggled to shoulder such disruption.
But with South African tight-head Jacobie Adriaanse expected to arrive this week and a number of injured players returning to fitness, Easterby believes his side can maintain their impressive league challenge.
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“Being without so many players does create problems and obviously, the more you have in the squad the more disruptive it is,” he said. “The Dragons have one which allows you to select consistently.
“But we are lucky in that we have got a group of players below the ones that have gone to Poland that we feel will step up.
“A lot of them have been playing for Llanelli RFC, particularly behind the scrum, and potentially they will be coming up to us over the next few weeks.”
One of those likely to be involved is Gareth Owen, who has recently recovered from a major knee operation.
Owen came off the bench to produce an eye-catching late cameo in the Scarlets’ 29-28 win over Edinburgh at Murrayfield on Friday night.
And Easterby believes the former Osprey will provide a quality midfield option while Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams are on Test duty this November.
“Gareth Owen is looking good and is timely that he is coming back in when you are losing the likes of Jon and Scott in the centre,” he said. “You look at the options we have in the squad and we have a lot of competition for places in the centre outside of Scott and Jon.”
As well as Owen and Morgan Stoddart, another of the region’s long-term injured, wing Dale Ford, made a return to action for Llanelli RFC in their Premiership clash at Cardiff.
Ford hadn’t played since suffering a broken leg in the LV= Cup tie against the Blues 12 months ago.
Meanwhile, the Scarlets are likely to issue an injury update today on George Earle, Joe Snyman, Andy Fenby and Gareth Maule, who all missed last weekend’s trip to Scotland.