Scarlets looking strong ahead of Champions Cup quarter-final

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The Scarlets’ hopes of reaching the Champions Cup semi-finals have improved after opponents La Rochelle suffered a double injury blow ahead of Friday’s showdown at Parc y Scarlets.

New Zealand back row Victor Vito has been struck by a calf injury while France centre Geoffrey Doumayrou has been ruled out of the last-eight clash by a knee problem.

The Scarlets, meanwhile, are selecting from strength with Rhys Patchell picked ahead of fly-half Dan Jones, who was preferred for the pool wins over Bath and Toulon.

Coach Wayne Pivac has also recalled those internationals rested for last weekend’s defeat at Munster – Leigh Halfpenny, Hadleigh Parkes, Gareth Davies, Rob Evans, John Barclay and skipper Ken Owens.

Pivac is now hoping for good news on the weather front as his team prepare to play their first major knockout match since 2007 in a showdown between clubs with a swashbuckling approach.

“We would love the rain to stay away and be able to go out and play our natural game,” Pivac said.

“I know La Rochelle will play their natural game, they have done it in every game that we have looked at this year. That would be exciting.

“We just don’t know what the weather is going to do, it is a toss of the coin at the moment.

“At this stage we are being told a bit of rain, we will wait and see, we have been told that before and it has been clear on the night.

“But we learnt a lot from the game against Bath when we went off-script and tried to play our dry-weather footie in the wet – and we paid the price.

“We just have to make sure we get our game management right if the conditions are wet.”

Newcastle continue their push for silverware on two fronts when they host French Top 14 strugglers Brive in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup.

“This is the business end of the year and it’s the time I really loved as a player and still love as a coach,” said Falcons boss Dean Richards, whose team are also in Aviva Premiership contention.

“It’s when you’re playing to get into semi-finals, finals, jockeying for those positions at the top of the league, and we’re right in that mix.”

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