Preview: Cardiff Blues v Aironi

Date published: January 6 2011

Ceri Sweeney will start at fly-half when the Blues take on Magners League basement boys Aironi at Cardiff City Stadium on Friday.

Ceri Sweeney will start at fly-half when Cardiff Blues take on Magners League basement boys Aironi this Friday.

Sweeney last started for the Blues on the November 27 when they recorded a 38-6 victory over Glasgow and will line up outside Tom Slater.

Tom Shanklin is paired with Jamie Roberts for the first time this season. Leigh Halfpenny starts on the wing having come off the bench last Friday.

In the forwards Tom Brown starts at number eight for the first time in the Magners League, his other two starts being in the LV=Cup. There is one other change in the pack with John Yapp starting at tighthead in place of Fau Filise.

Cardiff Blues ended a three-game losing run with their 27-25 victory over Ospreys on New Year's Eve and will aim to start 2011 with a win when they welcome their Italian opponents.

The Blues have won all seven previous games against Italian sides in all competitions while Aironi Rugby are still without a win in the Magners League.

Despite the record Cardiff Blues Director of Rugby, David Young, has seen an improvement in Aironi's recent matches.

“We have faced Aironi already this season and it was a hard match out in Italy. Certainly Rowland Phillips will get their team well organized,” he said.

“I think their results have shown that they've been very close in the last couple of games and recently recorded a famous win over Biarritz in the Heineken Cup.

“We are expecting a tough game, but it's a game we have to win. That's where we are in the season. We need the wins and bonus points if we can get them.”

The Blues won 20-3 when the two sides met at Stadio Zaffanella in October and could climb back into the top four again if they get the right result.

“On the back of two good performances and getting nothing it was nice to get the result against the Ospreys,” added Young.

“Hopefully we are all happier working after a win than we would be working after a loss.

“From now on every game has to be a cup final and a must win game for us. This is not the time to go on a bad run and we aim to start 2011 strongly.”

Meanwhile, Kaine Robertson will make his first start this season at Cardiff City Stadium.

“I can't wait to play again” said the Italian international wing, who injured himself during a friendly match in August.

“I'm sorry that Giulio Toniolatti has been suspended, but I'm really happy to be back and ready to help my team. It will be like an international game against such an important team with a lot of Welsh test players”.

After stunning Biarritz and collecting two bonus points in losses against Treviso, Aironi are looking to continue to improve against the Blues.

In addition to Robertson, there are some other changes in the team. Gilberto Pavan is back in the starting XV at centre, while Tebaldi has a week off at scrum half, and is replaced by Pablo Canavosio with Michael Wilson on the bench. In the back-row Favaro and Krause will be either side of Nick Williams.

There is a new duo in the second-row, with Marco Bortolami suspended for one week and Quintin Geldenhuys on the bench, Joshua Furno and Carlo Del Fava will be the locks. Del Fava will also skipper the team. In the front-row Salvatore Perugini will play with Fabio Ongaro and Fabio Staibano.

Form: Blues won 20-3 in the two sides only other previous meeting – at Stadio Zaffanella in October. Cardiff Blues ended a three game losing run with their 27-25 victory over Ospreys on New Year's Eve. The Blues have won all seven previous encounters against Italian opponents in all competitions. Aironi Rugby are still without a win in the Magners League but have picked up losing bonus points in each of their last two matches.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Chris Czekaj, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Tom Shanklin, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tom James, 10 Ceri Sweeney, 9 Tom Slater, 8 Tom Brown, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Andries Pretorius, 5 Paul Tito (capt), 4 Bradley Davies, 3 John Yapp, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Gareth Williams, 17 Scott Andrews, 18 Sam Hobbs, 19 Deiniol Jones, 20 Martyn Williams, 21 Rhys Downes, 22 Dan Parks, 23 Dafydd Hewitt.

Aironi: 15 Julien Laharrague, 14 Kaine Robertson, 13 Rodd Penney, 12 Gilberto Pavan, 11 Matteo Pratichetti, 10 James Marshall, 9 Pablo Canavosio, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Gareth Krause, 6 Simone Favaro, 4 Joshua Furno, 5 Carlo Del Fava (capt), 3 Fabio Staibano, 2 Fabio Ongaro, 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements: 16 Luigi Ferraro, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Luca Redolfini, 19 Quintin Geldenhuys, 20 Josh Sole, 21 Michael Wilson, 22 Gabriel Pizarro, 23 Paolo Buso.

Date: Friday, January 7
Kick-off: 19:30
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium
Referee: Peter Allan (Scotland)
Assistant referees: David Jones (Wales), Chris Williams (Wales)