Emyr Phillips expects an intense and physical battle this Friday as Scarlets make their 2016/17 Anglo-Welsh Cup bow with a home match against an in-form Bath Rugby.
The Welsh region are in good form heading into the contest, winning their last five Pro12 matches and climbing into the top half of the table, but they meet a Bath side who have lost just twice all season.
However, the 21-20 home defeat to Leicester Tigers last weekend makes this a must-win clash for Todd Blackadder’s side as far as their Anglo-Welsh Cup ambitions are concerned.
But Phillips warns the prospect of beating an English opponent will make the Scarlets even tougher to face, especially in front of their raucous home fans.
“There is a great tradition between us and Bath, and it is always the same whenever we play the English teams. There is always an extra edge to the games,” said the Wales hooker.
“English sides are always renowned for their huge packs and intensity and we came up against a massive Bath pack in the summer in a pre-season game.
“It is good to play against sides you don’t face very often and when there is a little bit of an unknown there is also an extra edge, so we are expecting a big heavy pack and sharp backs.
“They have been good. Todd Blackadder is an exciting coach and they play some great rugby. We are looking forward to playing.
“It will be a big challenge for us but we have talent across the park and we will look forward to flying into them on Friday night.”
Phillips has played just twice this season as he continues to recover from a knee injury, but the Anglo-Welsh Cup provides a perfect opportunity for game time.
And the 29-year-old is eager to push his claims for a regular starting spot, while suggesting that some Scarlets youngsters are ready to make a name for themselves.
“If you do well in the Anglo-Welsh Cup then you get rewarded and there are a lot of great stories of boys who have done so well and progressed into the first-team ranks,” he said.
“It is really nice to freshen things up and then get a few of the older heads in there.
“We have some interesting young players to get in too. Ioan Nicholas at centre is only 18 but he is very exciting, and then Jack Condy in the forwards as well.
“This year has been pretty frustrating for me personally; I picked up an injury back in January and since then I have a lot of annoying niggles and I am trying to make my comeback.
“But it is going to be hard because the boys are stepping up all over the park, especially in the two shirt so we are looking forward to getting out there and getting some game time because you can’t replicate it – so I can’t wait.”
The second round of the Anglo-Welsh Cup kicks off this weekend. For full details of the tournament and tickets for the Final at the Twickenham Stoop on Sunday 19 March see www.new-heroes.com