Preview: Cardiff Blues v Leinster

Date published: February 19 2016

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Cardiff Blues are able to recall four Welsh internationals to the starting line-up for their PRO12 clash with Leinster at the Arms Park.

Seven players were released back to the region for the league clash as head coach Danny Wilson makes four changes to the side that played against Treviso last weekend.

A new-look half-back pairing will see Gareth Anscombe and Lloyd Williams join forces, with the scrum-half taking the captaincy.

Wing Alex Cuthbert will start the match while back-row Josh Turnbull is also recalled to the side.

Leading try scorer Tom James is named among the replacements while there is also a call-up for hooker Matthew Rees to the bench.

"Every time you play Leinster, home or away, it is a tough fixture against a quality outfit," said Wilson.

"We enjoy the surface at home but it’s also important we don’t concede as many tries as we have at home. It’s a fast surface which makes it hard to defend and with Leinster here it should be an entertaining and open fixture.

"Our confidence on our home pitch is high; it’s a surface where we have adapted our game and style to suit it. But we’re playing against one of the best running teams out there so we know the challenge ahead.

"We want to keep the Arms Park as a real fortress and keep winning here. Hopefully we can use home advantage and our home crowd to get over the line."

Meanwhile, there are eight changes from the Leinster team that accounted for Zebre last Friday with three in the backs and five in the pack, with a return for some Irish internationals from Six Nations duty and a debut for one of last summer's signings.

Zane Kirchner continues at full-back with Fergus McFadden coming into the starting XV having played against France last weekend for Ireland. On the left wing Isa Nacewa captains the side, while Ben Te'o and Garry Ringrose continue their midfield partnership.

There is a new half-back pairing with Eoin Reddan and Ian Madigan starting. It will be Madigan's 140th appearance for the province, with 788 points to his name to date.

Cian Healy is the only player retained in the front row with Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong starting alongside him this week.

There is one significant change to the second-row with Mick Kearney making his debut for Leinster having signed last summer. Unfortunately, a toe injury kept him out of action until the start of the season but a relapse on his first game back with Clontarf resulted in a further lengthy spell on the sidelines. He will be partnered by Hayden Triggs.

Rhys Ruddock comes into the team at blindside flanker, with Jordi Murphy moving from the number eight shirt onto the openside. That means a welcome return from injury for Jack Conan who has been out with an ankle injury for over three months. He last played against Wasps in the Champions Cup in November.

Form: Cardiff Blues four game winning run in the Guinness PRO12 came to an end on their visit to Treviso on Saturday. The Blues have won their last five matches at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park in all tournaments since Harlequins beat them there in the European Challenge Cup on 19 November. Leinster have the best defence in the Guinness PRO12 having conceded only 13 tries so far. The Leinstermen's single defeat in their last nine fixtures in the tournament was 13-23 on a visit to Dragons in round 13. Leinster have won just once in their last six visits to Wales, beating Ospreys at Liberty Stadium on 8 January. Cardiff Blues have beaten Leinster only once in their last 18 fixtures in all competitions: 11-3 at Cardiff City Stadium in the PRO12 in February 2011 whilst Leinster's most recent defeat at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park came in May 2007.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Rhys Patchell, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Blaine Scully, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lloyd Williams (c), 8 Manoa Vosawai, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 James Down, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Thomas Davies
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Bradley Thyer, 18 Taufa’ao Filise, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Tom James, 23 Dan Fish

Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Ben Te'o, 11 Isa Nacewa (c), 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Mike Ross, 19 Tom Denton, 20 Dan Leavy, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Adam Byrne

Date: Saturday, February 20
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Ian Davies (Wales), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)

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