TOUGH ACTS TO FOL­LOW — BUT RE­GION HAVE HIGH HOPES FOR NEW BOY LOUSI

Llanelli Star - - SCARLETS -

NEW Scar­lets sign­ing Sam Lousi made his de­but for Tonga at the week­end in the 25-17 de­feat by Samoa in the Pa­cific Na­tions Cup.

Lousi featured in the sec­ond row for the first-round match at Apia Park.

He missed the ma­jor­ity of last sea­son with Su­per Rugby side the Hur­ri­canes be­cause of a pec­toral mus­cle in­jury but re­cov­ered to make his in­ter­na­tional bow for the Pa­cific Is­lan­ders.

The Scar­lets have high hopes for Lousi this sea­son. The re­gion had big prob­lems in the back five of their pack last term, partly through in­juries, and while David Bul­bring’s de­par­ture isn’t guar­an­teed to im­prove mat­ters at lock, the Scar­lets have brought in a player they rate con­sid­er­ably.

At 6ft 6in and 19st he is built for bat­tle and the Hur­ri­canes were dis­ap­pointed to lose him as much as the Scar­lets were happy to gain him.

“He is a strong, ag­gres­sive ball-car­rier and also pos­sesses the han­dling skills that fits in with our style of rugby,” Scar­lets gen­eral man­ager of rugby Jon Daniels said.

It is ob­vi­ously early days, but Lousi has the pedi­gree to turn into one of the Scar­lets’ very best over­seas sign­ings. Here are some of the finest of those to have fig­ured for the West Wales re­gion.

DAVID LYONS

Pretty much a suc­cess with what­ever team he played for.

Re­garded as some­thing of a leg­end with the Waratahs, for whom he made 83 con­sec­u­tive ap­pear­ances af­ter his de­but in 2000, the Aus­tralian No. 8 played 44 times for his coun­try.

He played in the ex­tra-time de­feat by Eng­land in the 2003 World Cup fi­nal, but was ruled out of the tour­na­ment four years later through in­jury.

He ar­rived in Wales a year later and soon es­tab­lished him­self as Mr Con­sis­tency, serv­ing as the driv­ing force of the Scar­lets pack.

Lyons started all 30 of the Scar­lets’ league and cup matches in his first sea­son and was ap­pointed vice-captain for the fol­low­ing cam­paign. But he led the side for most of that sea­son as skip­per Mark Jones was injured and was then ap­pointed captain for the fol­low­ing term.

He left the re­gion in the sum­mer of 2011 to join Stade Fran­cais. He played 77 times for the Scar­lets and is rightly re­garded as one of the best No. 8s of the Welsh re­gional era.

SALESI FINAU

A favourite firstly with Llanelli, and then with the Scar­lets.

The Ton­gan cen­tre started out in rugby league and had the physical pres­ence you would ex­pect of some­one from that en­vi­ron­ment, with his South Seas-style hits and di­rect run­ning.

Was a key mem­ber of the Scar­lets side who won the Celtic ti­tle in the first year of re­gional rugby, he and Mark Tay­lor prov­ing a po­tent com­bi­na­tion in mid­field as the cham­pi­onship made its way to Stradey Park.

In all he made more than 200 ap­pear­ances in a Scar­lets shirt be­fore mov­ing to Bath in 2005. A Scar­lets back di­vi­sion with Finau at its heart was a for­mi­da­ble one.

SI­MON EASTERBY

Given he was born and raised in York­shire, it may seem a lit­tle odd to in­clude the flanker in this list.

But as an Irish in­ter­na­tional he

does tech­ni­cally qual­ify and there can be no doubt­ing his huge con­tri­bu­tion to the Scar­lets cause.

Easterby first pitched up in Llanelli in 1999 af­ter mov­ing from Leeds Carnegie. He stayed through the tran­si­tion to re­gional rugby and helped guide the side to Celtic League glory in 2004.

He was also a mem­ber of the side who reached the Heineken Cup semi-fi­nals in 2007, stun­ning Toulouse away in the pool stages and dis­pos­ing of Mun­ster in the quar­ter-fi­nals be­fore be­ing beaten by Le­ices­ter in the last four.

He re­tired due to a knee in­jury in 2010, then worked as the Scar­lets’ de­fence coach un­der Nigel Davies be­fore tak­ing the head coach role two years later. His 15-year stay in Llanelli came to an end in 2014 when he was ap­pointed as Ire­land’s for­wards coach.

RE­GAN KING

If only he hadn’t won that soli­tary cap for New Zealand — against Wales of all coun­tries — back in 2002.

A world-class cen­tre ca­pa­ble of un­pick­ing any de­fence with his vision and silky run­ning.

Throw in his won­der­ful pass­ing — he was ca­pa­ble of mak­ing space for any team-mate with his won­der­ful of­fload­ing out of ei­ther hand — and you have a truly gifted in­di­vid­ual.

His first spell with the Scar­lets spanned six years and he bagged 33 tries in 126 ap­pear­ances.

It says ev­ery­thing about the strength of New Zealand rugby at that time that King couldn’t force his way into the All Blacks team on a regular ba­sis.

JOHNNY MCNICHOLL

If there is a more dan­ger­ous coun­ter­at­tacker cur­rently op­er­at­ing in the PRO14 then he re­ally out to make him­self known.

The New Zealand wing made his name with Su­per Rugby side the Cru­saders but opted for a switch to Wales in 2016. Since then he has been a rev­e­la­tion.

He fit­ted per­fectly into the high­tempo of­fload­ing game Wayne Pi­vac was look­ing to in­tro­duce and his abil­ity to at­tack from deep, beat defenders and make ground was key to the Scar­lets’ march to the ti­tle in 2017.

De­spite the Scar­lets’ riches out wide, McNicholl is al­most im­pos­si­ble to leave out of the side. But in a boost to the coach­ing staff, he is equally at home at full-back.

If this list was compiled in a few months’ time, McNicholl’s name would not be on it as he will be el­i­gi­ble for Wales hav­ing signed a new deal with the Scar­lets.

He will be capped sooner rather than later.

Sam Lousi com­petes for a high ball with Tommy Sey­mour when Welling­ton Hur­ri­canes faced the Bri­tish and Irish Li­ons in 2017.

David Lyons.

Salesi Finau.

Johnny McNicholl scores in the Scar­lets’ de­feat by Le­in­ster in the 2017-18 Guin­ness PRO14 fi­nal.

Re­gan King in ac­tion for the Scar­lets against Ul­ster.

Si­mon Easterby.

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