Simon Easterby backs Scarlets rookies to take chances in RaboDirect Pro12 clash with Ulster
SCARLETS head coach Simon Easterby has backed his two rookie hookers to make the most of their chances this November ahead of this evening's RaboDirect Pro12 clash with in-form Ulster (6.30).
With Ken Owens and Emyr Phillips on Wales squad duty, Kirby Myhill and Darran Harris will fill in for the West Wales region at Parc y Scarlets.
Myhill, 21, will make only his third league start for the West Walians, while 20-year-old Harris is poised to make his Scarlets regional debut after being released by the Blues in the summer. Both are highly rated down west.
Myhill skippered Wales Under-20s to the semi-finals of the Junior World Championships in 2012, while Harris was one of the stars of Pontypridd's league and cup-winning side last season.
He also underlined his capabilities with a stunning 60-metre try for Llanelli RFC in the British & Irish Cup tie against Bedford last month. "I am really comfortable with either of those two," said Easterby. "They were both the standout trainers in the summer before Emyr and Ken returned.
"Kirby is a bit more experienced with more senior rugby under his belt, while Darran can offer X factor impact with ball in hand.
"This is an opportunity for those two to get some exposure over the next couple of weeks."
With seven players in Warren Gatland's squad, Easterby has been forced into making nine changes — one of them positional — from last weekend's disappointing 16-16 draw against Zebre in Parma. Jordan Williams is back on the left wing, having missed last week's draw with a shoulder injury, while Gareth Owen returns at full-back, with a new centre partnership in place with Gareth Maule and Adam Warren teaming up.
Up front, Samson Lee returns at tight-head after a two-week suspension.
The Scarlets will be looking to get their league campaign back on track after struggling to replicate their European exploits.
"The way our results have gone this season we have always tended to bounce back after a disappointing result," said centre Gareth Maule. "Hopefully, it can be the same again against Ulster."
Maule missed the start of the season with a knee injury he picked up in the final pre-season match against Gloucester at Kingsholm.
And while he has had limited opportunities because of the form of Wales duo Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams, the former Dragon is hoping to make his mark in a new-look back division.
"It is a nightmare for an injury to happen like it did against Gloucester, but our midfield has been as good as it has ever been and good luck to those boys going away with Wales," he added.
"It is now my opportunity to try to fill those boots as best I can and put pressure on them when they return.
"In my first game back against Glasgow there was definitely some rustiness, but hopefully if I can get some consistency in performance, the team gets some consistency as well, and we can get back up towards the top of the league."
Scarlets: G. Owen, N. Reynolds; G. Maule, A. Warren, J. Williams; S. Shingler, G. Davies; P. John (capt), K. Myhill, S. Lee, J. Ball, G. Earle, A. Shingler, S. Timani, J. Turnbull. Reps: D. Harris, R. Evans, J. Adriaanse, J. Snyman, J. Barclay, A. Davies, A. Thomas, C. Knight.
Ulster: J. Payne (capt), A. Trimble; D. Cave, C. Farell, M. Allen; R. Pienaar, P. Marshall; C. Black, R. Herring, J. Afoa, L. Stevenson, N. McComb, R. Diack, N. Williams, R. Wilson. Reps: N. Annett, K. McCall, R. Lutton, M. McComish, S. Doyle, J. McKinney, R. Andrew, D. McIlwaine.