Nigel Davies is hoping for continued improvement from the Scarlets
Scarlets boss Nigel Davies insists his side will start the Heineken Cup feeling good about themselves despite an up and down start to the season.
The West Wales region have lost their last three games but only by a combined total of 14 points.
And Davies, who took control of the Scarlets in May of last year, believes a season that began with an impressive victory over Heineken Cup winners Leinster has the potential to bring European rewards.
"We move into the European phase of our season in a pretty positive frame of mind, knowing what we're capable of yet frustrated that we haven't been able to finish off some of the games that we should have," said Davies, whose side face Top 14 outfit Brive at the Parc-y-Scarlets on Saturday week.
"To a certain extent, I've been really pleased with our application as a side. There are certain cornerstones in our game that we probably didn't have in place last year. There's a really good energy within the group and we're playing some good football in patches.
"But we're frustrated because we're not winning games that we could win and should win. Our challenge over the next couple of weeks is to get those things right and make sure that when we get into the hugely competitive environment that is European rugby, we're in the right place. And I think we will be."
Having reached the semi-final stages of the continent's most-prestigious competition three seasons ago, the Scarlets have failed to make it past the group stages in the last two Heineken Cup tournaments.
But while those two campaigns have brought some painful defeats both home and away, Davies has no doubt that the experience gained by his younger players will be of huge benefit when it comes to pushing onwards and upwards this time around.
Davies has given game time to an impressive array of youngsters since taking over from Phil Davies 17 months ago, with the performances of the likes of centre Jonathan Davies, fly-half/full back Rhys Priestland, hooker Ken Owens, scrum-half Martin Roberts and wing/full back Daniel Evans all suggesting that the future of the Scarlets is in positive hands.
"We did blood a loot of young players last year and there are opportunities for young players within our region," added Davies.
"It was painful at times last year but I think we started to see the payback from that at the end of last season and I'd like to think that that's carried through into the start of this season.
"I've always had a clear idea of where I want to take this group of players. We do have a particularly talented group of younger players but we do also have some real quality experienced players. And that mixture can be quite potent.
"I'm not sure that teams who play us know quite what to expect from us at the moment, which is a strong position for us to be in."
As part of the build-up to next month's Cardiff 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals weekend, ERC has joined forces with the WRU, Cardiff Blues and adidas to develop an annual grassroots community rugby programme targeting young players.
The Ulster Rugby full back, Jared Payne (No 15), has been suspended for two (2) weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin arising from the Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium on Saturday, 5 April.