Scarlets can end Welsh heartbreak


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It's been a gut-wrenching Round of 16 so far for the Welsh regions but we're tipping Scarlets to end a compelling weekend of European rugby on a high.

Scarlets v Sale Sharks, 5.30

Cardiff Blues, Ospreys and Dragons all suffered heartache in high-scoring matches across the first two days of the weekend, against London Irish, Newcastle and Northampton, so the onus is now on Scarlets to deliver at home to Sale Sharks.

Sharks have won two Challenge Cups but their record in the top-tier is very underwhelming: just one quarter-final reached, and that was 15 years ago.

Their record against Scarlets is won one, lost three and outside of England, they have lost 17 of their last 18 away matches. 

This Sale team arguably has the potential to be every bit as good as the one that reached the quarters in San Sebastien in 2006, the year they won the Premiership, but they are still prone to inconsistency are have let down punters in the past when fancied to do well.

Enormous credit must go to them for the way they defied four yellow cards to win at Wasps last week, but they were helped by a home side that failed to test them in the right areas; they cannot afford a repeat at Parc y Scarlets.

Their big South African contingent play on the edge, and with Scarlets having had men sent off on three consecutive weekends earlier in the season, this could be a feisty encounter where the role of referee Mathieu Raynal is crucial.

Six Nations champs back in the mix

Scarlets have picked a dangerous-looking side that includes seven of Wales’ Six Nations title winners.

Leigh Halfpenny is set to make his return from concussion and is joined in the back-three by Liam Williams. Johnny Williams takes his spot in the midfield, while scrum-half Gareth Davies is straight back into the side.

Loose-head Wyn Jones and captain Ken Owens return to the pack and centre Jonathan Davies is named on the bench.

Sale are not short of class, either, with World Cup winners Faf de Klerk and Lood de Jager in their line-up. But Scarlets will probably want this one just that little bit more.

Scarlets: 15. Leigh Halfpenny, 14. Liam Williams, 13. Steff Hughes, 12. Johnny Williams, 11. Johnny McNicholl, 10. Dan Jones, 9. Gareth Davies, 1. Wyn Jones, 2. Ken Owens (c), . , 4. Jake Ball, 5. Sam Lousi, 6. Aaron Shingler, 7. Jac Morgan, 8. Sione Kalamafoni.
Replacements: 16. Ryan Elias, 17. Steff Thomas, 18. Javan Sebastian, 19. Lewis Rawlins, 20. Blade Thomson, 21. Dane Blacker, 22. Sam Costelow, 23. Jonathan Davies,

Sale Sharks: 15. Simon Hammersley, 14. Byron McGuigan, 13. Sam James, 12. Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11. Marland Yarde, 10. AJ MacGinty, 9. Faf de Klerk, 1. Bevan Rodd, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 3. Willgriff John, 4. Jacobus Wiese, 5. Lood de Jager (c), 6. Jean-Luc du Preez, 7. Tom Curry, 8. Dan du Preez.
Replacements: 16. Curtis Langdon, 17. Ross Harrison, 18. Coenie Oosthuizen, 19. Josh Beaumont, 20. Cameron Neild, 21. Raphael Quirke, 22. Robert du Preez, 23. Luke James,

Union Bordeaux-Begles v Bristol, 3pm

These two sides fought out an epic battle in the semi-finals of the European Challenge Cup back in the Autumn, Bristol pulling away to win 37-20 after extra-time.

Bristol went on the lift the trophy at the expense of Toulon, and are now riding high at the top of the Premiership table on the back of a seven-match unbeaten run. No other side picked up more points than them in the Six Nations (32).

UBB have not quite hit the same heights as last season when they topped the Top 14 table before it was cut short. Even so, fifth place is no disgrace.

Both teams can score tries for fun and this match shouldn’t be any less frenetic than the free-scoring encounters we’ve already seen this Easter weekend. 

Over 48.5 points is probably the way to go here.

Bordeaux-Begles: 15. Romain Buros, 14. Yoram Falatea-Moefana, 13. Pablo Uberti, 12. Rémi Lamerat, 11. Ben Lam, 10. Matthieu Jalibert, 9. Maxime Lucu, 1. Jefferson Poirot (c), 2. Clement Maynadier, 3. Vadim Cobilas, 4. Cyril Cazeaux, 5. Jandré Marais, 6. Cameron Woki, 7. Guido Petti, 8. Scott Higginbotham.

Replacements: 16. Joseph Dweba, 17. Thierry Paiva, 18. Lekso Kaulashvili, 19. Kane Douglas, 20. Alexandre Roumat, 21. Yann Lesgourgues, 22. Ulupano Seuteni, 23. Nans Ducuing,

Bristol Bears: 15. Charles Piutau, 14. Luke Morahan, 13. Semi Radradra, 12. Alapati Leiua, 11. Henry Purdy, 10. Callum Sheedy (c), 9. Andy Uren, 1. Yann Thomas, 2. Bryan Byrne, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. Dave Attwood, 5. Joe Joyce, 6. Chris Vui, 7. Daniel Thomas, 8. Nathan Hughes.

Replacements: 16. Will Capon, 17. Max Lahiff, 18. John Afoa, 19. Ed Holmes, 20. Ben Earl, 21. Harry Randall, 22. Sam Bedlow, 23. Piers O’Conor,


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