Wales hope the Scarlets’ winning formula can rub off and help Warren Gatland’s side to victory when they welcome a resurgent Scotland to Cardiff for their Six Nations opener on Saturday.
Head coach Gatland has named a team which contains 10 men from Llanelli –- the Scarlets players rewarded for their fine form in the domestic PRO14 and European Champions Cup tournaments this season.
Worcester’s Josh Adams, who has scored 13 tries for the Warriors this season, will make his debut on the wing after Wales decided against gambling on the fitness of George North, struggling with a knee problem, but the rest of the back division is made up of Scarlets.
Rhys Patchell is selected at fly-half with Hadleigh Parkes and Scott Williams the centre pairing.
“The Scarlets have got to the quarter-finals in Europe and there’s a group of them who have come in with confidence and belief as a collective which can definitely be a positive,” said Gatland.
“Those combinations played a big part in our selection. Rhys has has a good season and both he and Gareth Davies have trained particularly well over the last week,” he added.
“There was a healthy discussion about who we should pick, but we decided both of them had put their hands up.
“Those two guys are familiar with each other’s play. That speeded up our preparation a little bit and hopefully it will get us off to a good start in the Six Nations,” the British and Irish Lions boss explained.
Leigh Halfpenny and Steffan Evans join 22-year-old Adams in the back three.
In the pack, it’s an all-Scarlets front row made up of Rob Evans, Ken Owens and Samson Lee, with veteran lock Alun Wyn Jones the captain.
Adams, who will team up alongside his former school-mate Steffan Evans, said: “I’m thankful the coaches have put their faith in me, but I felt a bit sick when I found out.
“I’ve worked really hard to get to this point and when you get there, it’s surreal. There are a lot of nerves, mixed with excitement, but I can’t wait for Saturday.”
– ‘Pressure on players’ –
Injuries have deprived Wales of several experienced internationals, with Jonathan Davies, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb, Taulupe Faletau and former captain Sam Warburton among those ruled out of Saturday’s match.
“We are all aware of the pressure on players, particularly after a Lions year,” said Gatland, who guided the combined side to a drawn series in his native New Zealand in 2017.
“Players haven’t had a huge amount of time in the off-season to repair and recover.
“A lot of teams are in the same boat, but it’s just the way the game is going.”
With Scotland resurgent after an impressive end of 2017 series that included a victory over Australia and a narrow defeat by world champions New Zealand, hopes are high they can end their 15-year wait for a win in Cardiff.
It is also eight years since Scotland last won an away match in the Six Nations anywhere other than Rome.
But last year saw the Scots end a run of nine consecutive defeats by Wales.
Saturday’s match will be the first time that Scotland boss Gregor Townsend has coached in the Six Nations and the former playmaker said: “We’ve selected a squad we believe can start with the intensity and speed required to win in Cardiff. We’re expecting a physical game against a very good team.
“Wales have one of the best defences in the game and an attack that sees forwards passing much more and a structure that enables backs to get on the ball.”
While Wales’s selection is dominated by players from the Scarlets, the regional side also provide the Scotland captain in flanker John Barclay, with gifted fullback Stuart Hogg likely to be the visitors’ main dangerman. – Agence France-Presse