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Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Strong La Rochelle pack ready to give Scarlets a workout

Wet conditions could make it hard for hosts

The La Rochelle pack are a powerful unit
1 of 1

Scarlets v La Rochelle
BT Sport 2, 5.30pm Friday

There's a heavyweight feel to the last eight of the European Champions Cup but the quarter-finals begin with two teams in unfamiliar territory.

Over the weekend Munster take on Toulon and Leinster host Saracens, and between them those four have lifted the trophy in ten of the last 12 seasons.

Add to that an all-French clash between Clermont and Racing 92, who between them have finished runners-up in the last three years, and it's clear that the cream has risen to the top.

But Scarlets are making their first appearance at this stage for 11 years while La Rochelle are tournament novices who burst on the scene this season with some barnstorming displays.

After three rounds the French outfit had bagged a maximum haul of 15 points, sparked by a fearless attacking display at Harlequins in round one which blew away all preconceptions about French teams being cagey and lacking ambition on the road.

Les Corsaires scored 15 tries in their first three matches but but could not keep itup in the second half of the group stage, losing at Wasps and Ulster, a reflection of their domestic form.

Last season they finished top of the Top 14 table but were beaten in the playoff semi-finals, while they started this campaign impressively before a run of just one win in six at the start of 2018 which finally ended with home victories over Lyon and Bordeaux in the last two weeks.

Scarlets are unbeaten at home in the Pro14 this season but were less convincing in Europe, losing to Bath in the pool stage before a five-point win over lowly Benetton and an edgy three-point success over Toulon to secure their passage.

They were clear second-best in their Pro14 defeat at Munster last week, a match which will have shown their French opponents their strengths and weaknesses. Scarlets raced into the lead as they injected early pace into the game but could not withstand the forward power of Munster, who had the Scarlets scrum rocketing backwards.

La Rochelle boast a similarly powerful unit and with wet conditions likely it could be hard work for the hosts. They have been competitive on the road in the Top 14 and dominated for spells against Ulster in Belfast. They should keep it close against a Scarlets side who have not put teams away at home in this competition.

La Rochelle +6
2pts Evs Betfred

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Scarlets are unbeaten at home in the Pro14 this season but were less convincing in Europe
E.W. Terms
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