Rugby: Scarlets see Edinburgh duel as a ‘must-win’ encounter

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EDINBURGH RUGBY have been warned that Friday’s RaboDirect Pro 12 opponents Scarlets are treating the encounter in the Welsh valleys as a “must-win” occasion.

That’s the view of Simon Easterby, the club’s former Ireland and Lions flanker who retired last season due to knee damage and has taken up a post as defence coach.

Referring to the Llanelli-based side’s chequered start, in which the only success so far came on the opening day at home to Aironi (32-9), Easterby said: “We are coming off the back of four defeats and see this as a must-win game.

“Although we are desperate to get both a result and a performance, it is not all doom and gloom though.

“There is a bit of a feel-good created in Wales by the national team going through to the World Cup quarter-finals and we have shown ourselves capable of continuing to produce some good prospects.

“We have unearthed Liam Williams, a winger who has come up from the Welsh under-20 side, and there are also promising scrum-halves in our ranks in Gareth Davies and Roger Williams.

“So that’s encouraging, and of the four games we have lost only the match in Munster [12-35] really got away from us.

“Against Treviso last weekend we did go down [10-20], but their two tries came from lapses in concentration.”

Edinburgh put forward similar explanations after they went down in Italy to Aironi recently – there has only been one away league win since December 2009 – and Easterby admitted: “With Edinburgh inconsistent like ourselves, both sides would be difficult to analyse just now and there’s hardly a constant between us.

“The situation is affected, too, by the large number of players from each team involved in the World Cup.

“However, matches between the teams are usually attractive and while Edinburgh have in Michael Bradley a new coach who did well at Connacht on a limited budget, the style of play remains as expansive as usual from what I can see.

“Watching Edinburgh, it is clear that Tim Visser has retained consistency and David Denton is starting to come through strongly with Greig Laidlaw inevitably a key figure.

“I’m also aware of how Phil Godman can influence a game positively when he comes back from injury.”

Godman was listed on the bench last week, but with Edinburgh in command against Munster, coach Bradley was able to keep his international playmaker under wraps for another week at least as he continues a comeback from serious knee ligament damage sustained almost a year ago.

Meanwhile, Scarlets’ head coach Nigel Davies, whose side have slipped to 11th in the table with Edinburgh lying ninth, added: “We’ll be keen to get back on the pitch for a home fixture in front our home supporters at Parc y Scarlets, knowing how vital it is that we get some points from the game against Edinburgh and get a grip back on our league position.

“There’s still a lot of time to go and plenty of rugby to play in this league, so we keep our heads up and put everything into next week that we can.”