RHYS Priestland could make an early return from injury this season — but Scarlets head coach Simon Easterby insists the Wales fly-half will not be rushed back.
Priestland was initially ruled out for the rest of the campaign when he ruptured his Achilles in a Heineken Cup match against Exeter in December, but the 26-year-old could yet feature for the Scarlets in the RaboDirect Pro12.
The Llanelli region currently occupy the fourth and final play-off place, and Priestland's return could provide a timely boost for their hopes of winning a first league title since 2004.
It could also give Priestland a chance to prove his fitness ahead of the British Lions' tour of Australia this summer, with Warren Gatland naming his squad on April 30.
And although Easterby has been encouraged by Priestland's progress in training, the Scarlets' boss will only recall the fly-half to the starting line-up when he is ready. "I'm not going to put any pressure on him," said Easterby.
"I think he feels refreshed after having a break from competitive rugby.
"He's feeling really good about himself and he's feeling really good about his Achilles but that will be totally down to him whether he plays this season or not.
"If he's right, he'll come into contention.
''If he's not right, we wouldn't expect to push him and cause a setback. He's had a really good block of a couple of months of training'' added Easterby.
"He went with Andy Walker, our head physio, to St George's Park, the England soccer base.
"He had a really good week there, so he's progressing really well.
"At the moment, he's looking really good."
Meanwhile, Easterby gave little away when he was asked about reports linking the Scarlets with a move for Wales and Melbourne Rebels No. 8 Gareth Delve.
"I think he's another one of those players who, at this stage of the season, will be bandied around," he said.
"He's gone very well since he's travelled to Australia, and he's a quality player.
"We will be looking to recruit in certain areas and it makes life easier if you can recruit Welsh-qualified players.
"But we've still got a bit to go in understanding who we can and can't go after."