The Scarlets host Bath Friday at Parc y Scarlets (19.45 kick-off) in a must-win Champions Cup game for the reigning Pro12 champions after their narrow one-point defeat in Toulon last Sunday.
On the other hand, Bath will be seeking to make it two out of two after their 23-0 defeat of Benetton Treviso at home last Saturday.
Here are some key battles in tonight’s game:
1. Rhys Patchell vs Rhys Priestland
The versatile Patchell who is equally adept at full-back as he is at fly-half, enjoyed an outstanding debut campaign in West Wales last season, and has continued his impressive form into the current one.
An excellent distributor with a real ability to get his backline moving, who also has a real eye for a gap and a really good kicking game, the four-cap pivot is a quality player.
While former Scarlets fly-half Priestland has made an excellent start to the season and has been a key figure in Bath’s good start to the season which has seen Todd Blackadder’s men win four of their six league games and lie in fifth place in the Aviva Premiership table.
The 48-cap star is a real game-breaker who is superb at putting teammates into space and unlocking opposition defences. Blessed with great hands and vision, the 30-year-old is also a very good tactical kicker, who when on song is able to control games really well.
It promises to be a fascinating battle between the pair and one which will have an important bearing on the final result.
2. Will Boyde vs Sam Underhill
Another product of the Scarlets’ famous academy, the 22-year-old flanker has a big future ahead of him. Since making his debut in 2014, Narberth-born Boyde has made over forty appearances for the region.
Excellent at the breakdown where he consistently steals opposition ball, and a strong ball carrier who puts in plenty of tackles as well as having good hands, the former Wales u-20 backrower continues to get better and better.
While Underhill, who made his international debut against Argentina in the summer, is one of England’s finest young talents. Really strong over the ball, the 6-foot-3, 16 stone openside is outstanding at slowing down and pilfering opposition ball at the breakdown, as well as being a really tough defender and a powerful ball-carrier.
Having made his name at the Ospreys, the 21-year-old has made a big impact at the Rec since joining in the summer. Highly-rated by Eddie Jones, the youngster is expected to be included in the Australian’s squad for the Autumn Internationals with some tipping him to be the answer to England’s search for a genuine seven.
With both sides playing an open, expansive game, quick ball is essential so the battle of the two youngsters will be key on Friday.
3. Steff Evans vs Semesa Rokoduguni
The 21-year-old was a revelation last season, topping the Pro12 try-scoring charts and terrorising opposition defences with his raw pace and outstanding feet, and playing a key role in the Scarlets’ march to the title.
Evans, who made his international bow against Tonga during the summer, has carried his superb form into this season, topping the try assists, metres gained, clean breaks and defenders beaten charts.
Blessed with excellent hands, a good boot while also being solid in defence, Evans was already putting serious pressure on George North for a starting spot for next month’s autumn internationals even before North was ruled out this week with a knee injury. Evans will not surely now start on the wing against Australia.
While 30-year-old Rokoduguni has made a superb start to the season, touching down five times in seven games, including a late score against Saracens which gave his team a memorable win over the current European champions.
Lightning quick with a tremendous side-step, if given space, the twice-capped England winger can tear defences to shreds. Always willing to have a go, the Fijian-born has real X-factor and has shown improvements in his defence.
The mouth-watering clash between the two hot-steppers is undoubtedly the most exciting match-up of tonight’s clash with both men looking to seriously test each other and the opposition defence.
Hefin Jones, Pundit Arena
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