20/12/2019 – Guinness PRO14 Communications – Ken Owens returns to lead Scarlets for Dragons match

Scarlets skipper Ken Owens takes over the captaincy for his first appearance of the season in Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 clash with the Dragons at Rodney Parade (5.15pm ko).

Wales hooker Owens and international team-mate Hadleigh Parkes become the latest World Cup players to return to action in a side showing seven changes from last weekend’s European Challenge Cup hammering of Bayonne.

Johnny McNicholl, after being rested for that 45-6 victory, is back in the ranks and is named on the wing, with Leigh Halfpenny and Steff Evans making up the rest of the back three.

Like Owens, Parkes will make his Scarlets seasonal bow and links up with Steff Hughes in midfield. Hughes has started every match for the side this season.

Dan Jones gets the nod at fly-half for his 99th appearance in a Scarlets jersey, partnering Wales international Gareth Davies at half-back.

There is an all-international front row on show with Owens packing down in between Wyn Jones and Samson Lee, who has been passed fit following a shoulder issue.

Jake Ball and Sam Lousi continue in the second row, while in the back row Aaron Shingler has recovered from the knee injury he picked up on international duty against the Barbarians and slots in alongside No. 8 Uzair Cassiem and the recalled Josh Macleod.

Rob Evans has a neck problem so former Dragon Phil Price comes onto the bench, as does Fiji international Tevita Ratuva following his three-week suspension. Blade Thomson provides further Test experience among the replacements.

Scarlets go into round eight of the Guinness PRO14 in fourth place in the Conference B standings with a record of five wins and two defeats.

SCARLETS v Dragons (Rodney Parade; 5.15pm Saturday, December 21)

15 Leigh Halfpenny; 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Steff Hughes, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans; 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies; 1 Wyn Jones, 2 Ken Owens (capt), 3 Samson Lee, 4 Jake Ball, 5 Sam Lousi, 6 Aaron Shingler, 7 Josh Macleod, 8 Uzair Cassiem.

Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Phil Price, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Tevita Ratuva, 20 Blade Thomson, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Corey Baldwin.

Unavailable because of injury

Jonathan Davies (knee), Rhys Patchell (shoulder), James Davies (back), Tom Phillips (hand), Tom Prydie (hamstring), Dan Davis (foot), Rob Evans (neck), Joe Roberts (knee).