Scarlets v Zebre: Kristian Phillips gets big chance to shine
SPEEDSTER Kristian Phillips has been handed the job of filling the considerable boots of George North as the Scarlets look to maintain their league challenge against Italian strugglers Zebre at Parc y Scarlets tomorrow (6.30pm).
The former Ospreys flyer is set for his first competitive start for his new side following his move from the Liberty in the summer.
North, one of 12 Scarlets in Poland with the Wales training squad, has been in irrepressible form in the Pro12 this season, crossing for seven tries in six league outings.
But Phillips will be hoping he can transfer his prolific try-scoring record at Premiership level to the regional stage as the Scarlets bid to inflict more misery on the league’s basement side.
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Head coach Simon Easterby has been forced to make widespread changes because of the Wales absentees, but flanker Johnathan Edwards, who takes on the captaincy, believes the players coming in are hungry to make the most of their opportunities.
“All the boys are itching to play,” said Edwards.
“We have lost three boys in the back row to Wales, but we still have plenty of options — the likes of myself, Kieran (Murphy), Tomas (Vallejos), Dan Thomas, Richie Pugh, Craig Price.
“Even though we are missing players, you know that if you don’t perform one week, you could struggle to get into the side the next.”
With Zebre missing 15 players themselves through international calls, injury and illness, the Scarlets will be expected to make it six wins from eight matches as they look to keep on the tail of unbeaten leaders Ulster at the head of the Pro12 table.
However, Edwards insists nobody at Parc y Scarlets is taking a win as a given.
“Zebre are competing in every game they play. They are a difficult side with some quality players,” he added.
“We know the challenge ahead, there is no complacency in this squad. The challenge as players is to perform because you never know when you are going to pull on that jersey again.”