Gareth Davies insists the Scarlets are relishing the tag of underdogs ahead of today’s Champions Cup semi-final with Leinster.
Despite having won twice in Dublin on their way to lifting the Guinness PRO12 title last season the Welsh regions hopes of appearing in their first European final has been dismissed by the bookmakers.
But the 32-times capped Wales international scrum-half insists being written off doesn’t bother Wayne Pivac’s side.
“Leinster are rightly favourites going into the game but we as a group of players quite like going into games as underdogs,” said the 27-year-old. “Games don’t get bigger than Leinster in Dublin in a Champions Cup semi-final. It’s going to be a massive challenge but it’s one that we are looking forward to.
“Leinster are one of the best teams in Europe. They’ve finished top of our conference in the Guinness PRO14 by a good number of points, while they had a great victory over Saracens a couple of weeks ago, but we are quietly confident.”
Prior to their championship winning exploits last season the Scarlets’ end of season run-in would typically consist of scrapping for Champions Cup qualification.
But nowadays the benchmark has been set much higher with the West Walians fighting for two trophies.
Davies admits it is a tough ask for the squad especially with injuries piling up but insists the West Walians have the quality to bring more silverware back to Llanelli.
“Every game from now until the end of the season is knockout rugby,” he said.
“It’s been mentioned once or twice but we know how big of an achievement it is for us to have got this far having not won anything for a long time before last season. But we as a group of players want to take that extra step and make it to the final.
The Scarlets have some unfinished business with this stage of the competition having been denied at the death on two occasions. Their most infamous semi-final defeat came in 2002 at Nottingham’s City Ground against Leicester Tigers when a Tim Stimpson penalty from 60 metres hit the post and the cross bar to deny Llanelli.
But Davies is adamant the players won’t be giving their previous European semi-final failures much thought.
Neither will the squad be drawing on last season’s stunning PRO12 semi-final triumph over Leinster at the RDS.
“I’m aware of what happened with Tim Stimpson’s kick knocking us out,” he said.
“It has been mentioned a few times but we aren’t going to look too much into the past because it’s about the here and now. It’s all about this group of players and hopefully we can make a bit of history on Saturday.
“Lat season’s PRO12 semi-final was a good day for us and I thought we played really well but that’s nearly a year ago now. A lot has changed since then and both sides have a few different players that have come in.
“We won’t be looking back too much at that game because it’s a completely different challenge for us this weekend.”
The visitors have won many admirers for their free-flowing brand of rugby which blew away both Leinster and Munster in last season’s PRO12 play-off’s.
Often when sides reach the latter stages of competitions they abandon the style of rugby which got them there in the first place opting to play a low-risk game instead.
But the Scarlets are different.
“We will stick to our usual game and not change anything,” insists Davies.
“We are approaching this game as we would approach any other game. We’ve showed over the last 18 months that we want to play an expansive brand of rugby.
“We’ve been training well so hopefully we can bring that brand of rugby on the weekend.”
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