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Dublin: 4 °C Saturday 17 March, 2018

'Hopefully, it's a bit of blueprint for other teams because it's an attractive style'

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac wants to see more teams adopting an attacking approach.

WHILE RUGBY IS all about clashes of different styles and philosophies on the game, the most popular victories are often by teams who really back themselves to attack with the ball in hand.

Connacht won the neutral support last season in the Guinness Pro12 with their thrilling attacking rugby, while Glasgow Warriors had assumed that mantle the season before under Gregor Townsend.

Scarlets celebrate with the trophy Scarlets celebrate their title. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

On Saturday, no one could argue that the Scarlets didn’t deserve their trophy, as they scored six tries in demolishing Munster in the latest Pro12 final.

The trophy capped of a three-year journey for the club under head coach Wayne Pivac, who came from Auckland but felt the heat in his first season in Wales as the Scarlets initially struggled to get to grips with his new demands.

“I was under pressure the first year, you know,” said Pivac on Saturday after his side’s 46-22 win. “We had a group of players who had played a certain way and were very comfortable in their positions. We made a lot of changes, as you do when you come in.

I knew what the Scarlets wanted to achieve and my background coming from New Zealand was that we play a certain style of game, but you can only play that way if you’ve got certain athletes with a certain skillset.”

Progress took time but now the Scarlets are bearing the fruits of the long-term labour, with their ability to score from inside their own half and rip defences apart.

Their width is exceptional, their one-on-one attacking qualities superb. Even forwards like loosehead Rob Evans and back row James Davies are capable of passing accurately under pressure, meaning Scarlets can threaten no matter who is on the ball.

For Pivac, this is all he knows. The All Blacks set this tone in New Zealand and the provincial sides – he had two stints with Auckland and one with North Harbour – follow the blueprint.

Wayne Pivac celebrates after the game Pivac shows his delight. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We work really hard on our basic skills [at Scarlets],” said Pivac. “If you come and watch us train there’s a lot of boring drills going on but if you watch the All Blacks train they’re very similar drills and they’re very boring.

“But they have a lot of athletes who can handle the ball under pressure, and you’re starting to see we’ve got props and second rows who can offload.

“They don’t always get it right and you’ve still got to do the donkey work up the middle of the park and get go-forward ball, but we’re able to catch teams on the edge a lot with the x-factor players we have.”

Pivac was keen to stress that Scarlets had delivered a high-quality defensive display against Munster, while also showing their intelligence at set-piece time, but their attack was the story of the day.

Even at the outset of this season, they weren’t quite executing on Pivac’s plans, but he says the squad’s determination to play an expansive, ambitious brand of attacking rugby helped them to reach the heights of recent weeks.

Now the Scarlets head coach wants to see other teams taking up the mantle.

“At the start of the year it wasn’t coming off for us. We had players where the fitness level wasn’t quite right, we had internationals coming back that weren’t really where they needed to be. Not their fault, it was just they needed a break after that New Zealand tour.

Scarlets celebrate with the trophy Happy days for the Scarlets. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We had Foxy [Jonathan Davies] coming back from France and Rhys Patchell coming in, who is an influential player for us at 10. It was always going to take a bit of time to gel, but the work behind the scenes has been really good.

“I’m just really pleased for them that it’s come off and hopefully it’s a bit of blueprint for other teams, because I think it’s an attractive style of game and it’s enjoyable.

“Our players just love playing that style of rugby.”

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