Shining beacon Lee could be the heir apparent to Adam
IT'S Samson by name and, on the evidence of the opening weekend of the Pro12 campaign, it could be Samson by nature this season.
Amid the debris of the region's 42-19 hammering by Leinster, the performance of 21-year-old tight-head prop Samson Lee was a shining beacon.
Leinster may have been shorn of their own front-row strongman in Cian Healy, but Lee consistently put the visitors' scrum under pressure — without a huge amount of reward from the whistle of referee John Lacey.
A member of the Wales Under-20s side that reached the semi-finals of the Junior World Championships in South Africa in 2012, Lee is one of a number of young props that Warren Gatland and his national coaching team are hoping will make the grade at regional level and beyond in the coming years.
And Scarlets forwards coach Danny Wilson, who has guided Lee at under-20s level and now with the Scarlets, firmly believes the Llanelli product is ready to make his mark on the domestic game.
"He's a 21-year-old tight-head prop who is really one for the future," said Wilson.
"The new scrum laws really suit Samson, his shape and the way he scrummages. He can hopefully use that to his advantage."
The new directive from the International Rugby Board for scrum-time has certainly grabbed plenty of headlines over recent weeks.
The hit has now been taken away, so the 'crouch-touch-set' commands by the referee have now been replaced by 'crouch-bind-set'.
Wilson believes the change will suit Lee's 'barrel-chested' shape. He also insists the young prop has already learned a lot from top-level competition and playing in rugby hotbeds like Clermont.
With British Lions cornerstone Adam Jones having indicated he is ready to retire after the 2015 World Cup in England, the emergence of a potential tight-head successor to the Ospreys scrummaging king has become a priority in Welsh rugby.
So is Lee the man to fill Jones's boots?
"There's lot of tight-heads coming through, not just in our region," added Wilson.
"It's a concern because of the age profile. I presume Adam, at 20, 21, was probably at the same stage of his development as Samson. You can train hard in the gym and learn how to play rugby in an academy but, at prop, there's no substitute for game-time. You've just got to be playing matches."
The Scarlets are also grooming Rhodri Jones — already capped by Wales — for a move to the tight-head spot.
Jones, who featured on Wales's summer tour to Japan at loose-head, has dropped down to Llanelli RFC to continue his education within the front-row union.
"He's seen as a tight-head now," confirmed Wilson. "Robin McBryde has seen something in there as a tight-head. Rhodri is really keen to play tight-head and he's another young man who meets the criteria — he's a huge lump of a bloke.
"It's a different challenge for him, how he gets into the position, but he's quite flexible for a big man so he can get into a good shape. It's a little bit tough for him learning a new position, but, hopefully, long-term the work he's putting in now will bring the result he wants."
Wilson will be hoping Lee and Co can continue the Scarlets's set-piece resurgence when Treviso — a side who have built a formidable reputation for their scrum and line-out drive — roll into town on Saturday.
"I was pleased with the scrum and line-out last weekend," he added. "People might say the Scarlets are not known for their forward play, but last season I think we start to prove that wrong This year is our intention to do that more so.
"The driving line-out and some of their work at the contact area is probably the strength of Treviso. They have an extremely strong driving line-out and scrum. They showed that against the Ospreys. We need to have a tactic to deal with that and a bit of an attitude as well. I would like to think we can thrive against them."