Head Coach Dai Flanagan is excited to make his first return to Parc y Scarlets this weekend – but insists only success with Dragons RFC will make it a happy trip.
Flanagan was part of the coaching set-up at the Scarlets from 2014 before he ended an eight-year stint to make the move to the Men of Gwent.
The two teams clash in Llanelli in the BKT United Rugby Championship on Sunday evening (kick-off 5.15pm) to launch 2023.
“I have great memories of being there,” admitted Flanagan. “I have a lot of close friends down there and a great relationship with the players and staff and I'm super excited to go back.
“I haven't been back at all since leaving because it happened so quick in the summer. One of the ex-analysts packed my bag and delivered it to me.
“It will be nice to go back and see people, more than anything else.
“It will be strange going into the away dressing room, but I’ve done it before as a player.
“We’ve got a job to do for 80 minutes and then post game we'll catch up and I'm sure I'll be there most of the evening.”
Dragons go into the game after back-to-back home defeats that came down to the final play. Flanagan acknowledges it was small margins that saw the team lose to Cardiff Rugby on Boxing Day.
But he has been thrilled by the way his squad has picked itself up and tackled a short six-day turnaround into the clash with Scarlets.
”It's challenging because physically you've got to get the bodies right and that takes time, but with this group of players it's been awesome,” he said.
“They're thriving in it; they are diligent and I can't speak highly enough. We’re tough and they're ready.
“You can't change too much of your game plan. You can tweak some stuff, but again, the learning becomes tough because you've got to make sure you spend 48 to 72 hours physically getting ready before you really challenge the mind.
“When you look at the last three games, we're talking about little moments and how you grow leadership in a group is reviewing people on decisions made at the time,” he added.
“There are so many little moments within that last 90 seconds against Cardiff. From the turnover to the free kick to the lineout to the kick to the actual try.
“We just keep grinding away. We're on a path and, as I said after the game, the easy part of the journey is the first initial improvement. The hardest part will be turning some of these results around.
“Ultimately, we're enjoying the way we are playing. There is a firm belief that we're doing it the right way.
“We're trying to test our skill set, we're moving the ball well, we're kicking smartly and that's now becoming a DNA of us.
“But Gwent rugby will never change in my eyes - set piece first.
“I thought our lineout was fantastic last weekend and that's an area we’ll pride ourselves on going down to Scarlets as well.”
We're trying to test our skill set, we're moving the ball well, we're kicking smartly and that's now becoming a DNA of us...