RHYS Patchell will form part of a confident Scarlets squad travelling to Dublin this weekend determined to reach the Champions Cup final, but not only for themselves.
Wayne Pivac’s side will stick to their mantra of free-flowing, attacking rugby which has led them to Europe’s last four and kept them in contention for the Guinness PRO14 title too.
Should they beat Leinster at the Aviva Stadium, Scarlets will become the first Welsh side to reach a European final since Cardiff Blues in 1996.
Playmaker Patchell – whose fine regional form helped him break into the Wales team for the Six Nations – knows his team will have to be at their best to do just that.
He said: “Leinster are a side to be reckoned with and we are fully aware we must bring our A game to the Aviva because we know they will be bringing theirs.
“They have a squad full of fantastic players, but what surprised teams in the last few weeks of last season was we really stuck to our guns and believed in the way we were playing.
“I am sure there will be little tweaks to the game plan, but by and large teams play the same all year round. It is potentially an incredible end to the season for us, but it could all come crashing down.
“It would be fantastic if we could reach the final, not just for the Scarlets but also for Welsh rugby. We are fully aware of just what an opportunity this is, but that’s all it is at the moment.”
Wales’ four regions have by now normally fallen away in European competition. This season is different, with Scarlets still on course for Champions Cup glory and the Blues in the last four of the Challenge Cup. Add in the distinct possibility of Scarlets retaining their PRO14 title and a thrilling finale to the campaign is in store for the men from Llanelli.
Patchell is relishing the thought of what might be to come.
“These four-week periods don’t come along very often. It is exciting and if we get things right, it could be unbelievable,” he added. “The mantra is the same every week – get Monday right, Tuesday right and Wednesday right and then fire all of our bullets on Saturday.
“When I went to sleep after the quarter-final with La Rochelle it was a relief to get it over with because it was such a big build-up to that game with all the talk about reaching the semi-finals for the first time in 11 years. It was such a big deal and I was relieved we got it right on the day.
“You get excited about thinking about what could be, but I am very aware that every day until then counts.”
Patchell helped the Scarlets thrash Munster at the Aviva in last season’s PRO14 final. His last visit to the home of Irish rugby saw him kick his heels on the sidelines as travelling reserve for Wales in their Six Nations defeat to Joe Schmidt’s Grand Slam winners.
This time around, the 24-year-old is a certain starter, either at fly-half or full-back.
“The last time I went to the Aviva I ran the best shuttles of my life on the sidelines,” Patchell joked.
“It is not the biggest capacity in world rugby, but there is a big wall of sound there. It is an exciting place to play.
“Johnny Sexton is a fantastic rugby player with a lot of Lions tours behind him. You don’t do that unless you are very good at what you do. He is the fulcrum for what Leinster do, but they have a conveyor belt of talent. Everyone knows what is required of them when they play for Leinster, they all understand the system.
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