Scarlets fans have reason to be excited about the forthcoming season. They were able to tie down star players such as Scott and Liam Williams with new contracts at the end of the last campaign, and they have made some shrewd and exciting signings since.
Jonathan Davies has returned from Clermont, while Rhys Patchell has joined from the Blues. However, Scarlets fans will be very aware that they have been confident heading into previous seasons in the last few years, only for the season to end in disappointment. So they won’t be getting ahead of themselves until the season has started, when they can make an assessment of the realistic targets for the season.
More Expectation Than Usual
This upcoming season is probably the first one in a while where it is not only Scarlets fans who are hopeful of success. There is a general consensus that they have the strongest squad out of the four Welsh regions. They were able to finish 5th last season with a weak squad. Now that they have strengthened, there is reason for fans and players to aim higher.
In the past, Scarlets fans have been criticised for being too optimistic and expecting too much from their team. But from looking at the fan forums of different Pro 12 clubs, and the way that the Scarlets performed last season with an injury affected team, it is clear to see that it is not only Scarlets fans who believe that they can achieve success this season.
For starters, you only have to look at the back line which they possess. You have to think that if Stephen Jones can get them firing on all cylinders, they will finish in the top four. They also have a better chance of competing in Europe this season, which they haven’t done for a while.
New Arrivals In The Pack
It is true that they don’t have the strongest pack in the Pro 12. However, their style of rugby often means that front foot ball isn’t needed, as they can score a try from anywhere. Obviously the management and supporters would prefer both backs and forwards to contribute equally to the matches.
In truth, the Scarlets have never possessed a set of forwards which has looked daunting to other teams. Their back line has countless times been able to get them out of some tricky situations but they have been able to strengthen their pack in the off season. The arrivals of South African prop Werner Kruger and lock Rynier Bernado will add some considerable bulk to the Scarlets’ front 8.
Johnny To Boost The Back Line
One of the most exciting signings the club has made is that of Crusaders’ try-scoring machine Johnny McNicholl. The New-Zealander will arrive in October once he has completed the ITM Cup, just as the Scarlets will be about to begin their European Rugby Chanpions Cup campaign.
He’ll be hoping to make an impression in the home game against Sale Sharks as a result. McNicholl has shown just how dangerous he is with some mesmerising tries in Super Rugby this season. He will be a very welcome addition to the already talented back line which the Scarlets possess. On its day, it will be right up there with the best back lines in Europe.
So, What Can Scarlets Fans Hope For?
Overall, the Scarlets supporters are correct to be going into the new campaign with optimism and excitement. They have the strongest squad since the group that got them to a Heineken Cup semi final in 2007, they are on a sound financial footing, they have a good working relationship with the WRU and there aren’t as many evening kick offs as last season!
If the Scarlets fail to reach the play-offs in next season’s Pro 12, it will be a huge disappointment. We can’t be so expectant when it comes to the Champions Cup, however, as they’ve got a really tough group. Saracens and Toulon will provide tough opposition and the Scarlets should be doing their utmost to try and win their home ties. They should look to beat Sale home and away, and try their best to secure a bonus point. If they manage to escape their pool, they’ll have done a magnificent job.
Let’s see what the new season has in store for the Scarlets. Will they deliver or will they disappoint?
Predicted Guinness Pro 12 finish: Second
Predicted Champions Cup finish: Knockout Stages
Tom Pritchard, Pundit Arena