Preview: Cardiff Blues v Dragons

Date published: December 22 2011

Gavin Henson will make his Cardiff Blues debut at full-back for Friday's Pro12 Welsh derby against the Dragons.

Gavin Henson will make his Cardiff Blues debut playing at full-back for Friday's Pro12 Welsh derby against the Dragons at the Cardiff City Stadium.

The home team shows four changes, all in the backs, to the team that lost to Edinburgh last Friday.

New recruit Henson will make his debut at full back, with Leigh Halfpenny moving to the wing.

Alex Cuthbert returns to the other wing, having recovered from a hamstring injury. In the centre Dafydd Hewitt starts with Jamie Roberts moving to the bench and Ceri Sweeney starts at fly half with Dan Parks also moving to the bench. The pack remains unchanged.

Henson is hoping to impress the Blues coaches and secure a long-term deal with the region.

“I'm incredibly grateful to the Blues for giving me a chance, it's kind of like a trial thing until the end of the season,” Henson told BBC Wales.

“So I'll be going all-out all season now to try and get another contract with them.

“Everyone knows I've been a little bit injury-prone over the last four or five years, so I'm not much of a signing to anyone – so very grateful the Blues gave me a chance. It's up to me now to repay that and just try and get that long-term contract with them.

“I'm just glad to be starting; obviously not my preferred position, but nevermind. I'm just glad to be on the field and it'll be interesting to see how it goes,” he added.

“I've been training hard so hopefully I'm up to the standard and it could be an exciting night.

“With Leigh [Halfpenny] and Alex [Cuthbert] there they've been playing really well, so I'm going to enjoy playing alongside them and hopefully they'll help me out quite a bit because it's my first game for a while. It's an exciting backline and very hard to get into, but hopefully we'll have a good result now Friday.

“There's loads of experience throughout the team, but especially the backline. Hopefully it'll be a good turn-out, it's my first time playing in the Cardiff City Stadium so can't wait for that and hopefully it'll be a nice Christmas.”

Meanwhile, Dragons centre Lewis Robling will be making his second regional start.

Form: Cardiff Blues have won three of their last four games in the RaboDirect PRO12., and have won their last three matches in all competitions at the Cardiff City Stadium. The Blues have not beaten a fellow Welsh region in 2011 with their last such success coming against Ospreys on New Year's Eve 2010. Newport Gwent Dragons are without a win in their last four matches, and have not won away from home in the RaboDirect PRO12 since a trip to Aironi on 20 February. Dragons only away win over a fellow Welsh region since 2007 was 21-16 at Ospreys on 30 October 2010. Dragons won the most recent match between the two teams, 28-15 at Rodney Parade on 29 April, to end an eight game losing run against the Blues. Dragons only previous win on Blues soil was 25-13 at the Arms Park on 7 November 2003.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Cardiff Blues:15 Gavin Henson, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Alex Cuthbert, 10 Ceri Sweeney, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Xavier Rush, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Michael Paterson, 5 Paul Tito (c), 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 T Rhys, Thomas, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Tyrell, 17 John Yapp, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Josh Navidi, 20 Maama Molitika, 21 Richie Rees, 22 Dan Parks, 23 Jamie Roberts.

Newport Gwent Dragons: 15 Martyn Thomas, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 Adam Hughes, 12 Lewis Robling, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Wayne Evans, 8 Toby Faletau. 7 Gavin Thomas, 6 Danny Lydiate, 5 Rob Sidoli, 4 Adam Jones, 3 Nathan Buck, 2 Lloyd Burns, 1 Nathan Williams.
Replacements: 16 Steve Jones, 17 Phil Price, 18 Dan Way, 19 Jevon Groves, 20 Darren Waters, 21 Joe Bedford, 22 Anitelea Tuilagi, 23 Will Harries.

Date: Friday, December 22

Venue: Cardiff City Stadium
Kick-off: 19.35 (GMT)
Referee: Leighton Hodges (WRU)