Shane Williams delivers his Welsh festive derby predictions
Shane Williams says the Scarlets will want to produce a big performance for their discontented fans in the west Wales Boxing Day derby – but he’s predicting an Ospreys victory.
The Scarlets went down to a 23-7 defeat at home to Black Lion of Georgia in the EPCR Challenge Cup last weekend, leaving them with just two wins from their nine matches in all competitions this season.
So the pressure is on as they head into the BKT URC showdown with their local rivals, with a 10,000-plus crowd expected in Llanelli for the big derby (live on Viaplay from 5.10pm).
Ospreys and Wales wing legend Williams witnessed the Scarlets’ shock loss to Black Lion at first hand.
“I was at the game and they were booed off the field,” he said.
“I know how fickle the Scarlets fans can be. I used to be one! So I appreciate that.
“It was a dark horrible night with the weather and the rain and it was a dark horrible night for the Scarlets.
“The fans were really disappointed and rightly so. It was a real poor display.
“They went in front at the start, but after that they were just second best in every facet of the game. The set piece got absolutely annihilated, they were bullied in defence, they lost the physical battle and made far more errors than usual. It was disappointing to see.”
Viaplay pundit Williams continued: “It’s been very difficult for them this season. Their first couple of games were out in South Africa. They had two absolute drubbings and there’s nothing worse than starting off on the back foot.
“I think they have been very unlucky. Dwayne Peel has got a squad riddled with injuries. They are having to play youngsters with little experience at this level.
“Dwayne has taken a lot of it on himself. He has met with the supporters and promised they are going to give it their best shot.
“I know him very well. He is working his socks off down there and trying to keep the team and the fans happy.
“But it’s been a really tough season. They certainly don’t have confidence at the moment.
“They are under pressure. Dwayne and the Scarlets need a win.
“I think they will feel they owe the supporters a big performance at home.
“All Dwayne wants for Christmas is a victory in this game.
“But the Ospreys will be the clear favourites.
“They have got less injuries, with quality players who can come off the bench and make a difference. Their squad is stronger and squads win you games in this modern day.
“They look the more comfortable. I think they will be too strong, so I will go for an Ospreys victory at Parc y Scarlets.”
Turning to the other Boxing Day derby, between Cardiff Rugby and Dragons RFC at the Arms Park, Williams is predicting a home win.
“I think Cardiff have played some really nice rugby this season,” he said.
“Tinus de Beer has been a good signing. He is playing well, pulling the strings.
“They have got a couple of good youngsters coming through, the likes of Cam Winnett at 15 and Mackenzie Martin, who looks a decent prospect at No 8.
“It was a cracking game against Bath last weekend, with some brilliant rugby.
“The Dragons are an almost team at the moment. They do make a lot of errors, with silly penalties and mistakes – coach killers, I call them.
“The Cardiff squad is probably stronger. They just look a bit more organised.
“So if I was a betting man, I would probably go for Cardiff. Never write the Dragons off, but Cardiff have to be the favourites. I think they will be a little bit too strong for the Dragons, so I see them winning that game.”
Both Boxing Day derbies are expected to draw crowds in excess of 10,000, with this time of year bringing back happy memories for former Neath and Ospreys try machine Williams.
“I used to love playing over the Christmas period. They were my favourite games,” he said.
“They were big because there was a lot at stake and you had the crowds.
“Stradey Park was one of my favourite grounds – once when I was a supporter and then as a player.
“The intensity was just incredible. I knew Scarlets fans were willing me to play poorly, drop the ball and make mistakes. If I did, they certainly made me aware of it. It meant so much to the supporters.
“They are huge games still today. There are bragging rights and in a blink of an eye you have got the Six Nations round the corner, so you have got that one-on-one battle as well.
“It’s great to have such big crowds for these matches, with that intensity on the field and off it.”
Shane’s festive predictions:
Cardiff 32, Dragons 26
Scarlets 16, Ospreys 29
New Year’s Day
Ospreys 27, Cardiff 21
Dragons 24, Scarlets 17
Shane Williams is part of the Viaplay team bringing live coverage of all four Welsh derbies in the BKT United Rugby Championship throughout the festive rugby season.
Rugby fans can follow every URC match live on the Viaplay streaming service and the Viaplay Sports 1 and Viaplay Sports 2 channels.
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