Scarlets host the Dragons on New Year’s Day looking to match the 38-27 win they recorded at Parc Y Scarlets last season. While Peel has to worry about history not repeating itself, Barclay is worried about the future of a fellow Scarlet legend.
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Since taking charge this season, Peel has seen his Scarlets side record just one win and one draw in the URC and they sit second from bottom, eight points below the Dragons. They were beaten in the opening derby of the festive period, falling 34-14 to the Ospreys on Boxing Day.
“The cruel thing is that you are judged on results. He’ll be disappointed with where they are,” said Barclay, who played 108 matches for the Scarlets over five seasons and memorably captained the side in their PRO12 final triumph over Munster in Dublin in 2017.
“I feel quite sorry for Dwayne and the staff there. They have obviously been quite vulnerable, with everything that is currently going on in Welsh rugby right now.”
Argentine flanker Tomas Lezana received his marching orders after only five minutes in the west Wales derby for a head-on-head collision taking the Scarlets tally of carss up to three red cards and 11 yellow for the first half of the season.
That has played a huge part in them picking up a mere nine points for their opening 10 games this season in the URC. Barclay believes discipline has been a huge issue for the West Walians and predicts it will continue to drag them down if they do not change their ways.
“Defence has obviously been a big issue this year, and they are not in a place where you want to be. I know there are enough guys in that squad who I played with that care a lot about the club and want to make it successful, but it has been a difficult start to Dwayne’s coaching career so far,” added Barclay..
“It’s not easy right now, but from a playing point of view, they have received too many cards this year. Experienced players have been banned and every week it’s becoming the same story.
“It has been a tough season for the Scarlets, they are probably in a rebuilding stage of where they need to be. A lot of guys are coming to the twilight years of their careers.
“There is a core of younger players coming through, but I think it will take them a couple of years to get back to where I’d love to see them. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to see the Scarlets back around the top of the table.
“But it is clear there are areas they need to fix. The hardest thing when you are down at the bottom of the table at Christmas is that you know you won’t be in the play offs and are heading into a fight for the rest of the season.
“A gulf is opening since the South African sides have come in, and if you are not at your best, you will have no chance.”
The Dragons have been transformed under the coaching of Dai Flanagan, who used to be the backs coach at Scarlets, but they have struggled to turn good performances into wins in recent weeks. Even so, they have posted three wins to the Scarlets one and are eight points clear off them in 14th place.
Although they narrowly lost their opening festive derby to Cardiff on Boxing Day, the Dragons have been playing some excellent attacking rugby of late, and the Scarlets will have to be aware of the visitors’ back three threat.
Wales newcomer Rio Dyer has made 479 metres this year, the fourth most meters gained in the league, and has scored five tries to date, the fifth best tally in the competition.
Barclay, now 36, played at Parc Y Scarlets when the Dragons were also-rans among the four Welsh regions. Those days, he now claims, are a thing of the past.
“The Dragons seem to have turned the corner under Dai Flanagan recently. They have picked up some good results and are playing some good rugby,” he added.
“I don’t think they are the finished article, but they are playing with more confidence so it will be interesting to see how the Scarlets deal with that. They will be desperate for a win at home for the fans.
“I loved the Welsh derbies when I was down there, the proximity and the history behind the games is fascinating. The crowds always come in their numbers and the intensity definitely rises.”
Scarlets: Leigh Halfpenny; Johnny McNicholl, Joe Roberts, Scott Williams, Steff Evans; Rhys Patchell, Dane Blacker; Kemsley Mathias, Ken Owens (captain), WillGriff John, Vaea Fifita, Sam Lousi, Aaron Shingler, Dan Davis, Sione Kalamafoni
Reps: Shaun Evans, Steff Thomas, Sam Wainwright, Morgan Jones, Carwyn Tuipulotu, Kieran Hardy, Dan Jones, Jonathan Davies
Dragons: Angus O’Brien; Rio Dyer, Steff Hughes (captain), Jack Dixon, Ashton Hewitt; JJ Hanrahan, Lewis Jones; Aki Seiuli, Bradley Roberts, Chris Coleman, Joe Davies, George Nott, Aaron Wainwright, Taine Basham, Ross Moriarty
Reps: Brodie Coghlan, Rob Evans, Luke Yendle, Matthew Screech, Ben Fry, Che Hope, Sam Davies, Sio Tomkinson