I can't wait to get started
WELCOME back to a new Scarlets season and there's certainly an energy and eagerness amongst the squad this week to get rugby back up and running at Parc y Scarlets.
We couldn't really ask for a better fixture than Leinster at home on the first night of the campaign.
Plenty has been done to bring our preparations together in the pre-season and the disappointment of Ulster at the end of last season in the semi-final is firmly behind us; more than that it's a motivation for us to improve on our position from last season and make a decent account of ourselves if we reach our top four goal again.
We got what we wanted last year but looking back, it wasn't enough. We are looking to keep our consistency high and take that extra step to a Pro12 final this season. That's our goal.
The focus has been on leadership this pre-season and we have a group working with Jon Fox and I to lead performance this season; it's good to know that players we have been alongside in the Scarlets jersey for close to a decade now will have an input into how we take things on — the backing of guys like Rhys Priestland, Ken Owens and other senior Scarlets is crucial in taking us forward. As a group of Scarlets we've been together a while now, we know what makes each other tick and how to work together well.
It's about setting high standards in training and expectations throughout our squad now.
Certainly having Jon working alongside me will be good. Two heads are better than one as they say. He's had a lot of experience over the last couple of years at a high level — I haven't got all the answers so it will be good to have his input.
The run-out against Gloucester last Friday was good for us. We were much improved in the second half when we kept hold of the ball and we really put them under pressure. With that possession, we looked dangerous and that's more like the way we want to play.
Things really came together for us as a group at the RAF camp in early August — and the boys have put in lots of graft in the pre-season to prepare. It just needs to come to the fore now at our opening two home games.
Yes, Leinster will be without some of their internationals but to be honest they're a challenge at any time and with memories of losing to Treviso last season at home still sitting there — we'll not be taking anything for granted in that home fixture either the following week.
The boys just want a strong start and that happens on Friday night at Parc y Scarlets.
A big thanks to all our Scarlets season ticket holders for 2013-14 for all their support and their loyalty to our region.
As players we know how vital it is to have a successful and thriving Scarlets rugby region, how we represent the values and traditions of Llanelli and respecting all that came before this current generation of Scarlets players.
I hope that we can give all our Scarlets supporters all plenty to be proud of and cheer on throughout the season. We hope to see all of you at Parc y Scarlets this Friday! We need a good start and the support of our home crowd will always make all the difference.