Wales World Cup star Gareth Davies and Tongan international Vaea Fifita return for the Scarlets’ BKT United Rugby Championship round three clash with Cardiff at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday (17:15 Viaplay).
Davies was one of the leading nines at the global tournament in France and will also captain the side for the first time.
Head coach Dwayne Peel has made seven changes to his starting line-up following last weekend’s loss to the Stormers in Stellenbosch.
In the back three, wing Steff Evans has overcome a hamstring injury and links up with Johnny McNicholl and Ioan Nicholas, who both started last weekend. Ryan Conbeer is ruled out because of a knock picked up in the first half against the Stormers.
There is a switch in midfield with 21-year-old Eddie James handed only his second URC start. He partners 23-year-old Joe Roberts, both home-grown products. British & Irish Lion Jonathan Davies provides the experience from the bench.
With Kieran Hardy on Wales duty, Gareth Davies comes in to partner Ioan Lloyd at half-back.
For the third successive match, the front row is the same - Kemsley Mathias, Shaun Evans and Sam Wainwright. Alex Craig is joined by Jac Price, who replaces Morgan Jones (HIA) in the second row. Sam Lousi is out with a calf problem.
There is a new-look back row on display. Fifita is back after suspension and slots in at No. 8, where he played for Tonga during the World Cup, while at openside, Teddy Leatherbarrow, a summer signing from Loughborough University, is handed his URC debut.
Leatherbarrow has been in impressive form for Carmarthen Quins in the Indigo Premiership in the opening weeks of the season. With Taine Plumtree called up by Wales, Ben Williams gets the nod at blindside flanker. Club captain Josh Macleod picked up an injury to his leg in training this week and is set for a number of weeks on the sidelines. Dan Davis is also ruled out after suffering a hamstring injury against the Stormers.
The bench includes Iwan Shenton, who is set for his first URC appearance of the season.
Head coach Dwayne Peel said: “It is exciting, there are lessons we need to take on board from South Africa and we know we need to get better in areas of our game. Cardiff are a good side, they will come here after a big win over the Dragons and will be combative like they were here last season when they managed to get over the line. We have got to be ready for that type of game, it’s a Welsh derby and we have to be right up for it. It’s also our first URC game at home this season, it’s a big one for us.”
Scarlets team to play Cardiff Rugby at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday, November 4 (17:15)
15 Johnny McNicholl; 14 Ioan Nicholas, 13 Joe Roberts, 12 Eddie James, 11 Steff Evans; 10 Ioan Lloyd, 9 Gareth Davies (capt); 1 Kemsley Mathias, 2 Shaun Evans, 3 Sam Wainwright, 4 Jac Price, 5 Alex Craig, 6 Ben Williams, 7 Teddy Leatherbarrow, 8 Vaea Fifita.
Reps: 16 Isaac Young, 17 Steff Thomas, 18 Wyn Jones, 19 Iwan Shenton, 20 Carwyn Tuipulotu, 21 Archie Hughes, 22 Charlie Titcombe, 23 Jonathan Davies.
Josh Macleod, Sam Lousi, Dan Davis, Ryan Conbeer, Morgan Jones, Ken Owens, Samson Lee, Dan Jones, Kieran Hardy, Tom Rogers, Taine Plumtree, Harri O’Connor, Ryan Elias, Sam Costelow, Johnny Williams.