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Scarlets Seek To Sharpen Up With World Cup Blade

Blade Thomson will make his first Scarlets appearance of the season as Brad Mooar’s side face Benetton in Llanelli on Saturday night.

Thomson was one of Scotland’s better players at the World Cup and he will start at No 8 with Ed Kennedy and Josh Macleod either side of him in the back-row. Elsewhere in the pack, Taylor Davies comes in for Marc Jones at hooker.

Davies packs down in a front row that includes Phil Price and Wales international Samson Lee. Lewis Rawlins and Steve Cummins again get the nod in the second row.

Behind the scrum, Johnny McNicholl has recovered the ankle knock that forced him off late on against the Cheetahs and starts at 15 with Steff Evans and Corey Baldwin taking the wing spots. Baldwin replaces Ryan Conbeer out wide to make his first PRO14 start of the campaign.

Paul Asquith has recovered from the facial injury he sustained against Zebre in round three and is reunited with skipper Steff Hughes in midfield, while Dan Jones and Kieran Hardy continue their half-back partnership.

“You only have to look at where they finished last year, third in their Conference and then pushing Munster all the way in the knockouts,” said Scarlets assistant attack coach Richard Whiffin.

“It is nigh-on a full Italian team, it will be a challenge for us, but we have got some options we think we can hurt Benetton with and hopefully on Saturday we can put that out there.”

New Ospreys scrum-half signing Shaun Venter returns to their starting XV as Allen Clarke’s side face the Southern Kings at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.

Venter has missed the last couple of games due to injury and will partner Luke Price at half-back while Scott Williams and Tian Thomas-Wheeler resume their centre partnership. Dan Evans, Hanno Dirksen and Namibia international Lesley Klim make up the back-line.

Up-front Rhodri Jones, Scott Otten and Tom Botha pack down in the front-row with Marvin Orie and Lloyd Ashley at lock. Dan Lydiate captains the side from blindside flanker with Olly Cracknell and Morgan Morris joining him in the back-row.

The Liberty Stadium outfit will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing defeat to Connacht last weekend.

“Last weekend felt like a low point,” said Ospreys head coach Allen Clarke.

“We’ve reflected over our performance against Connacht and the beauty of it is we can put things right against the Kings. Hopefully we can be a better version of ourselves this weekend.

“It is important that we are for our supporters and in particular ourselves so that we get some rewards for how hard we’ve worked over the summer and the effort we’ve put in. I want my players to get a win this weekend.”

Adam Warren will make his 100th Dragons appearance tonight as they face Edinburgh at BT Murrayfield.

Warren – who made his regional debut for Dragons in September 2015 – will become a centurion when he runs out for the league encounter in the Scottish capital. Director of rugby Dean Ryan has made one change from the side which lost at Leinster last weekend with Jack Dixon partnering Warren in midfield.

“Edinburgh are a very good side. I know Richard (Cockerill) well and he has done a great job coming into the Guinness PRO14 and bringing some of his experiences,” said Ryan.

“Friday will be a test of us physically, because having spent years coaching against Richard, I know that Edinburgh will come with a power and field-position game and will wait for us to do something silly. We’ve got to work hard to be robust enough to stand up to that.

“Adam is one of those players who you have got to watch the footage to understand how well he plays. You could easily pay your money and not really understand that because he might not have flashy moments or things that are glaringly obvious.

“But when you watch the footage and the amount of things that he gets right, and how he covers other people, that’s testimony to the person he is and he is a great character.”

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