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Scarlets continue search for No. 8

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: July 26, 2013

Experienced Rodney So'oialo has been linked with a switch to Parc y Scarlets.

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THE Scarlets are continuing their search for a No. 8 to bolster their squad ahead of the new campaign.

The Llanelli-based region have been linked with former All Blacks No. 8 Rodney So'oialo, but the Evening Post understands that despite initial talks with the 62-cap forward, a deal is unlikely to go ahead.

So'oialo was once regarded as one of the leading No. 8s in world rugby, but he has spent the last two seasons playing for Honda Heat in Japan and turns 34 in October. He may still be coming to Wales, though, with Cardiff Blues understood to be interested in his signature.

The Scarlets have also been linked to Australian Lachlan McCaffrey, a 23-year-old back-rower who scored for Western Force against the British Lions in the tour match in Perth last month.

McCaffrey has made seven appearances for the Force in the Super 15 and represented Australia at the 2010 IRB Junior World Championships in Argentina. Scarlets head coach Simon Easterby has made no secret of his desire to add a powerful ball-carrying No. 8 to his armoury, with the West Walians having struggled to find a replacement for England international Ben Morgan since his switch to Gloucester last summer.

Rob McCusker played there for the majority of last season, but prefers the blindside flanker role, while Kieran Murphy has made the move to French Top14 side Brive.

The Scarlets had targeted heavyweight Tongan Opeti Fonua, who came over to Llanelli for talks, but he opted to stay in France and joined Bayonne.

The Scarlets do have transfer funds available following their controversial decision to offload star British Lions wing George North to Northampton Saints.

And so far they have brought in Scotland international back-rower John Barclay from Glasgow and versatile back Steve Shingler, who has returned to Llanelli from London Irish. A winger also remains a priority for Easterby with North and Andy Fenby (London Irish) having moved on, while Morgan Stoddart has been forced to retire because of injury.

Others who have left include 21-year-old fly-half Owen Williams, who is looking forward to making a mark at Aviva Premiership Leicester Tigers this season.

Williams was snapped up by the East Midlands giants after his man-of-the-match display against the Tigers in the LV= Cup last season.

After the match he received a phone call from Leicester's director of rugby Richard Cockerill — and the offer proved too good to turn down.

"I was thrilled when one of the biggest clubs in Europe approached me, but it took me a while to think about it," said the Ystradgynlais product.

"I approached a lot of people including coaches and ex-players for advice and they all had good things to say about Leicester.

"It's a fantastic club that wins trophies. It's exciting. Really exciting. I didn't know anyone when I first arrived and everybody has been good in helping me settle. I know I have to prove myself. When some of the boys are away on international duty, there will be opportunities to play and I have to keep on improving and find my role in the team."

Capped at under-20 level, Williams doesn't believe the move will affect his ambitions of senior honours.

"If, touch wood, I ever manage to get picked for Wales, I believe I am a few years off that yet anyway," he added.

"I have signed here for two seasons and that will only improve my game. If I am lucky enough to get selected for Wales in the future, we will see how it goes."

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