Munster flyhalf Ronan O'Gara is poised to make his 100th Heineken Cup appearance against Scarlets this weekend and the tournament's leading points scorer is showing no sign of slowing down.
If, as they say, it takes one to know one, then there are few opponents better placed to evaluate the Irish pivot's massive influence on the Munster cause than Scarlets No.10 Stephen Jones who has gone head-to-head with O'Gara countless times for club and country.
Scarlets and Munster – who both won their opening two Pool One matches – clash at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday and then at Thomond Park eight days later in matches that could have major bearings on who ends up as the automatic quarterfinal qualifier as the Pool winner.
O'Gara's Munster teammate and prop John Hayes was the first Heineken Cup centurion and now the player who has already amassed 1 221 tournament points – and scored in his last 82 Heineken Cup appearances – is set be the second to break the three-figure barrier.
The fact that Munster are on two from two is, in no small measure, thanks to O'Gara taking his tournament tally of drop goals to 16 with strikes in the dying moments of the contests against both Northampton Saints and then Castres Olympique.
"Getting to 100 Heineken Cup matches will be an immense achievement for Rog," said Jones, who himself is second in the tournament scoring list with 860 points in 80 outings.
"He has proved what a quality player he is for Munster and Ireland down the years, but nobody needs me to tell them that. He has been at the heart of what Munster do for so long and he can vary his game by putting the ball through the hands or by pinning a side into the corners," added the Welshman.
Jones admitted that Llanelli is abuzz with anticipation ahead of the Irish giants' visit.
He said: "These back-to-back fixtures are huge when it comes to the outcome of the Pool and everybody at Parc y Scarlets is looking forward to the visit of Munster. We have already sold more than 10 000 tickets for the game and there has been a buzz about this game for a couple of weeks.
“Munster have proved over and over that what a force they are in Europe, while we have been there or thereabouts but fell away for a few years. We are getting back there now and the seeds were sown a couple of years ago and this season we have really pushed on," added Jones.
Scarlets have been in good form so far this season, but they are well aware that the double-header with Munster could well define their season.
"It's a huge game for us and we have to perform. Munster are a well organised, well drilled outfit and they play with real passion and commitment – we know we have to match that to stand a chance.
"We have some really good young players who are now experienced young players and that is very important in a competition like the Heineken Cup. Everybody can see that the Scarlets are now heading in the right direction and it is a really exciting time at Parc y Scarlets," he said.
Jones is especially excited to see what some of the lesser-known players have to offer on the big stage when they take on the Celtic League champions on Saturday.
"Players like George North, Scott Williams and Jon Davies have really established themselves but we also have players like Liam Williams and Adam Warren showing what they are capable of too," he said.
Jones has been edged out of the Wales national side in recent times by the talented young Rhys Priestland and he knows that his best chance of being noticed by coach Warren Gatland is to produce the goods in the Heineken Cup.
"For myself, I haven't retired from international rugby and have no plans to retire. European rugby is the shop window and I know that how I perform for the Scarlets dictates everything.
"I am still enjoying my rugby and I have been really energised by what is happening at the Scarlets and all the young talent we now have coming through. It's up to me to prove what I have to offer," he commented.
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