Scarlets' Pro12 form shows the way ahead during World Cup

By Ross HarriesScrum V presenter
Stephen Jones spent three years at Wasps before returning to the Scarlets as backs coach
Stephen Jones (right) returned to Scarlets from Wasps at the end of last season
Guiness Pro12: Scarlets v Munster
Venue: Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli Date: Friday, 23 October Kick-off: 19:05 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC 2 Wales.

Wales' attempt to reach the semi-finals of the rugby world cup ended in another soul-sapping defeat - and raised familiar questions about the team's creativity.

Their defensive organisation is outstanding, their fitness levels supreme, and their physicality beyond question.

But when it comes to the actual business of crossing the line, they've occasionally been found wanting, leading some to question whether the coaching set-up needs a re-shuffle.

I mention it here for a reason. On the eve of last Saturday's epic quarter-final against South Africa, the Scrum V Live team were at Parc y Scarlets as the league leaders took on the four-times champions, Leinster.

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Here was a Welsh side playing with width and ambition.

The set-piece was being used as a platform to launch attacks, and the ball was regularly appearing in the wider channels.

Runners were looking for space rather than contact, and Scarlets centre Regan King was using his guile to unlock defensive doors, rather than brute force to smash them down.

The man behind this new dynamic in attack is someone very familiar to Wales. Former Wales international fly-half Stephen Jones.

Might he be a figure to call upon in the future, if Wales want to adopt a more all-court style of play?

DTH Van de Merwe has represented Canada in three World Cups
DTH Van de Merwe scores for the Scarlets

Wing makes a scorching debut

DTH Van de Merwe marked his Scarlets debut with two tries in the 25-14 over Leinster.

He's a qualified fire-fighter, and the Canadian international's scorching World Cup form continued with his new side.

He arrived at Parc y Scarlets fresh from becoming the first tier-two player to score a try in every pool game of the World Cup.

And his hot streak continued as he touched down twice against Leinster.

George North has been gone for more than two years now, and in DTH, the Scarlets may have signed a gem to reignite their backline.

Had Rhys Priestland not left, and crucial injuries not occurred, the Scarlets faithful would be licking their lips at the prospect of a fully-fit backline of Gareth Davies, Priestland, Scott Williams, Regan King, DTH Van de Merwe, Hadleigh Parkes, and Liam Williams.

That would be a unit any Pro12, not to mention European side, would fear.

Rumours have surfaced as well that injured Wales centre Jonathan Daviesexternal-link and wing George North may return west at some point.

Forward power

Jake Ball and Ken Owens were two of six Scarlets in the Wales World Cup squad
Jake Ball passes to fellow Scarlet Ken Owens

While star backs Scott and Liam Williams face lengthy spells on the sidelines recovering from injuries the Scarlets' pack is about to get an injection of power.

Ken Owens, Jake Ball, and Samson Lee are all back from World Cup duty and will add considerable ballast.

Negotiating the troubled waters of the Pro12 during a World Cup is a tricky proposition. It's something the Ospreys - shorn of more international players than any other region - have clearly struggled with.

The Scarlets though, have not just survived; they've thrived.

Pro12 previews and team news
Scarlets v Munster
Dragons v Treviso
Ulster v Blues

It's easier when you're at the top of the table looking down. But things could be about to get tougher, as the World Cup players return en masse.

The Scarlets' next opponents are league leaders Munster - the team that displaced them at the top of the league following last week's victory over the Blues.

But Munster's influx of internationals shouldn't markedly change the dynamic of their team.

They were only missing five to the Irish squad, and the pack that took on Argentina on Sunday was the first not to feature a Munster forward for as long I can remember.

If the Scarlets can turn them over on Friday night, they'll have beaten the Irish "big three" and the defending champions in the first block of Pro12 fixtures.

Keeping things in perspective

Wayne Pivac coached Auckland before moving to West Wales
Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac barks his orders

There's a refreshing honesty emanating from "Heart and Soul Rugby Country".

Despite that record of played four, won four, head coach Wayne Pivac is refusing to get carried away.

He's lamented the lack of a full "80-minute" performance so far this season, and captain John Barclay admitted that his decision to go for the posts last week with the match safe, ultimately cost them a bonus point.

As we've witnessed through the drama and agony of Wales's World Cup campaign, matches -- and ultimately titles -- can be decided on the narrowest of margins.

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