Leigh Halfpenny has urged his Scarlets to finally deliver a complete performance tonight when they battle with the Ospreys for a place in next season’s Heineken Champions Cup.
The Wales full-back has had a frustrating season on an individual level with injuries and concussion problems, but he also admits his team have failed to match their previous high standards.
They can make some kind of amends this evening at the Liberty Stadium, though, by beating their biggest rivals in the play-off battle for the last Guinness Pro 14 spot in Europe’s top tier next season.
But the 30-year-old has warned his team-mates they will have to play for the full 80 minutes if they are to come out on top against Allen Clarke’s men.
“At times this season we feel like we’ve shown glimpses of what we’ve been capable of,” said Halfpenny.
“In parts we’ve played how we want to play, but we probably haven’t done it for the full 80. It’s a chance for us at the weekend to really put an 80-minute performance in.
“The derbies are always massive and this one will be the same with what is at stake. The history between the Scarlets and the Ospreys adds some extra spice to the game.
“It’s a massive game. We know what is at stake – a place in the Champions Cup and as a team and players that’s where we want to be playing. It’s a huge occasion for the club to be playing in the Champions Cup.
“The Champions Cup is everything. It’s where we want to be playing. As players you want to be there and to be testing yourself against the best teams in Europe.
“It’s huge for the club as well as the fans.”
Halfpenny’s Wales and Lions teammate, Justin Tipuric, will be in opposition and echoes his rival’s suggestion that both sides are desperate to avoid a season in the Challenge Cup.
“The Champions Cup is where both sides want to be so it’s a winner takes all,” said Tipuric.
“Hopefully both sides of fans will show up at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday so we can have a great end to the season. It’s been difficult not being in the Champions Cup this season considering the history of the Ospreys and part of us is challenging in that Champions Cup.
“If you’re in the Champions Cup you know that every side is going to be going full out to win. You are up against the best players in the world. Given it’s also our big local derby it adds some extra significance.”
Tipuric will captain the Ospreys and is joined in the back by Wales legend Alun Wyn Jones who makes his 237th appearance for the Swansea based region.
Wales prop Nicky Smith and Tom Botha pack down alongside hooker Scott Baldwin who will play his final game for the Ospreys before joining Harlequins. Adam Beard, Olly Cracknell and Dan Lydiate make up the rest of the pack.
Behind the scrum try scoring sensation Dan Evans start at full back and is joined in the back three by George North and Keelan Giles. Owen Watkin and Cory Allen line up in midfield with Aled Davies and Sam Davies at half-back.
Wales lock Jake Ball will make his return from injury for the Scarlets after injuring his foot in the last game of the Six Nations. The second row is one of four personnel changes, all of them up front, from the side that took the field in the Scarlets’ last outing against the Dragons on Judgement Day.
Injuries to Rob Evans and Wyn Jones sees Phil Price start at loose-head, although Jones does feature on the bench.
On the other side of the scrum, Samson Lee is ruled out because of concussion so Werner Kruger steps in at tight-head prop.
Ball partners Steve Cummins in the second row, while in the back row Blade Thomson makes his first start since November and wears the No. 8 jersey. Josh Macleod switches to blindside with Will Boyde starting at openside. Wales internationals Aaron Shingler and James Davies have failed to recover from injury, but hooker Ryan Elias returns from a shoulder issue to take his place on the bench.
“We have a proud history in the top echelon of European rugby and clearly that is where the club would like to be again,” said coach Wayne Pivac.
“We have prepared well and we have all talked about the importance of the game. Ordinarily, the Ospreys is one of the big fixtures of the season so to have this added game, there is a lot of motivation for both sides.”