Scarlets battling to keep forwards Vaea Fifita and Sam Lousi

Head coach Dwayne Peel says Scarlets have been fighting hard to keep forwards Vaea Fifita and Sam Lousi.

Fifita, 31, is in his second season with Scarlets and has been linked with a move to Montpellier at the end of the 2023-24 campaign.

"They are two quality players and I'd love to be able to keep hold of them and we'll try our best to do that," said Peel.

"I would say we are fighting hard to try and compete."

Peel added: "They're brilliant assets to us and they've been fantastic players, so we'll see how it goes."

The Tonga-born All Blacks lock Fifita joined Scarlets from Wasps in 2022. He won the most recent of his 11 New Zealand caps against South Africa in July 2019 before switching to Tonga and taking part in the 2023 World Cup.

Lousi joined the Scarlets after playing every game for Tonga at the World Cup in Japan and played in his second global tournament last year

The playing budgets for Wales' four professional sides will reduce even further for the 2024-25 season from £5.2m to £4.5m, so Peel says it will be hard to keep hold of their top earners.

"The budget is the budget and like every other business, you have to adjust your cloth accordingly and unfortunately that's the business," said Peel.

"Its difficult in many ways because you're competing with a market that's way above what you've got, that's the reality.

"You have to try and manage that budget the best you can in getting the depth in the squad and the quality needed.

"Those big money contracts are difficult to compete with because we haven't got the money.

"What people are paying for top quality international players is probably going to be 10%-15% of our budget sometimes.

"That's the whole squad so that's what you're dealing with."

Scarlets will also have to cope with the potential departure of some long-serving internationals who have excelled for the region for many years.

Legends like Jonathan Davies, Ken Owens and Scott Williams are coming towards the end of their careers, although Peel did not name any specific individuals.

"There's always time where players are coming to the end of their career and all the questions then get asked about what their future roles are and where they fit in the system," said Peel.

"Firstly we recognise they've been legends of the club and how we manage that situation is important.

"We have had honest talks with a few of them and they themselves have spoken honestly about their future plans also.

"Between us we'll decide what's best for the group and the club moving forward.

"Their contributions have been huge but when you get to the latter stages of your career, you know you contribute in different ways than when you're in your prime and at your best on the field.

"It's on the field that counts and we'll make a call on that but all the senior players in our group have been excellent in terms of leading and contributing."

Hooker Owens, 37, has not played since April 2023 and missed the World Cup with a back injury and Peel says he is not committing to whether the former Wales captain will play this season.

"The nature of his injury is he's working hard to get that right and everybody in Welsh rugby would love to see him wear the shirt again," said Peel.

"If that happens everyone would be delighted, but what I can say is he's been a massive contributor to this club.

"If that happens then brilliant, if it doesn't then I don't think it takes away anything from what he's achieved for us and what he represents.

"He's been a Scarlet through and through and we have to give him some space to try and get there.

"If he does then great, and if he doesn't, then his contribution has been massive."