Scarlets’ preparations for Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 final against Leinster continue to be affected by the physical toll exacted on Wayne Pivac’s side by their semi-final win over Glasgow Warriors.
The defending champions repeated their feat of 2016-17 when they beat Leinster at the RDS to become the first team to win an away semi-final, storming past Glasgow 28-13 at Scotstoun last Friday.
Yet the West Wales region must now plan to face Champions Cup winners Leinster at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening without Scotland captain John Barclay, who suffered a ruptured Achilles in the opening half, while the 4G artificial surface at Scotstoun left a number of otherwise fit players with cuts, friction burns and blisters, forcing head coach Pivac to abandon hopes of training on Monday.
The cancellation of training effectively negates the extra day’s rest Scarlets might have enjoyed over their final opponents having played their semi a day before Leinster saw off Munster at the RDS last Saturday afternoon while Pivac also admitted the loss of back rower Barclay was a big blow in terms of a loss of leadership and breakdown effectiveness.
Barclay has undergone surgery, the injury sidelining him for the first six months at his new club Edinburgh, whom he is to join this summer.
“He’s been fantastic for us over a number of years,” Pivac said yesterday.
“He’s a great leader. He led the side in the semi-final and final last year in the absence of Ken Owens, and did a great job. He’s a well-respected member of the group and he adds a lot — not just in his ability at the breakdown and the work that he does in defence and the communication that he brings on the field, but he is also very good with the referee. That goes a long way in the big games so he will be missed.
Following Monday’s abandoned training session, Pivac only had a limited number of players available yesterday as he continued to count the cost of reaching a second successive final.
Scarlets back Johnny McNicholl even claimed Glasgow’s pitch “should be illegal”.
“It was not a nice pitch to play on,” McNicholl said of the Glasgow surface.
“I’ve got a dozen blisters and cuts all over me. It has been difficult to sleep with the sheets sticking to me. I remember going down on the ball and I got a massive burn on my backside, a bit like a carpet burn.
"I told the trainer at the time these pitches should be illegal — they are high risk for injury. We haven’t been able to train because of the burns.
"That surface can be good in terms of footwork, but as soon as you hit the deck it can hurt your joints. I prefer not to play on them.”
Pivac added: “We weren’t able to train (on Monday) because of all the blisters and bad burns we picked up in the semi-final in Glasgow.
“We haven’t done any rugby work on the field because of the burns and there will be a lot who won’t train again today (Tuesday).
“We’ve got to play on these pitches, and you’ve just got to accept it, but I am not a fan of them.”
Pivac is hoping full-back Leigh Halfpenny will come through a fitness test on his hamstring tomorrow to put him in the running for a return against Leinster.
Meanwhile Glasgow Warriors are “entirely happy” with their pitch at Scotstoun. A spokesperson said it “was only installed in 2016 and is fully compliant with World Rugby’s performance specification”.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved