Preview: Cardiff Blues v Leinster

Date published: September 30 2016

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Dan Fish returns from injury as Cardiff Blues make five changes for Saturday's PRO12 clash with Leinster at Cardiff Arms Park.

The full-back limped off with an ankle injury after the heroic victory over Munster in Ireland three weeks ago.

But he has recovered to take a place on the bench as Danny Wilson makes five changes to the starting line-up.

Gareth Anscombe reclaims the number 10 jersey in an otherwise unchanged backline. Up front, Nick Williams is back at number eight and Gethin Jenkins, Kristian Dacey and Taufa'ao Filise form the front-row.

Wales' Capital Region have not triumphed over the Dublin-based province since 2011 but go into the encounter on the back of their best start to a season ever.

Victories over Edinburgh, Munster, Glasgow Warriors and Zebre have seen Danny Wilson's men climb to second in the PRO12 table but he is well aware of the magnitude of Saturday's task.

Wilson: "Leinster were very good (against the Ospreys) and very clinical. They showed their strengths up front and their defensive game forced a fair few turnovers and penalties. 

"So they are a tough team to play, whether home or away, but we have to take some confidence from Glasgow and Edinburgh at home which were good wins, and Munster, who you can also put in that bracket as a top end side.

"They are a side we lost to last season so we definitely want to put that right but we're under no illusions that we are playing a fully loaded Leinster. It would be a huge scalp to take.

"But confidence is good, confidence is high off the back of winning four games and we go in knowing it's a home game and will hopefully perform as we know we can."

Jenkins, who has signed a contract extension, will resume the captaincy for the top four clash.

Meanwhile, Leinster Head Coach Leo Cullen has made a number of changes to his run-on side after last week's bonus point win against the Ospreys and three players are involved for the first time this season.

In the backs, Zane Kirchner and Dave Kearney continue at full-back and on the left wing but Fergus McFadden returns from injury on the right wing for his first start since the Round 1 win against Treviso in which he kicked a penalty and a conversion in a 20-8 win. 

Noel Reid continues at inside centre but is partnered for the first time this season by Rory O'Loughlin who makes his first competitive start for Leinster having appeared as a replacement in two games so far. 

Jamison Gibson-Park starts at scrumhalf with Johnny Sexton as captain from number ten.

In the pack it's a new front row with Jack McGrath, James Tracy and Mike Ross lining up, while locking down behind them Mick Kearney is joined for his Leinster debut by Ian Nagle who joined Leinster during the summer but has been out with a shoulder injury over the last few weeks.

Nagle last played in the PRO12 in December 2013 for Munster against Scarlets in a 16-10 win. 

In the back row, two replacements from last week, Dan Leavy and Rhys Ruddock, start at blindside and number eight respectively, while Josh van der Flier starts at openside having scored two tries in a Man of the Match performance last Friday.

On the bench, Leinster Academy scrum-half Nick McCarthy is in line to make his first appearance of the season, while UCD's Barry Daly – who was recently awarded a contract having been on trial during the summer – is in line to make his first Leinster appearance.

Daly was involved in the Bank of Ireland Pre-Season Friendlies and scored a try against Bath in the last of those games in Donnybrook. 

Form: Cardiff Blues perfect start to the new season continued with their 23-21 victory in Parma on Saturday – their best start since the region was formed in 2003. The Blues reside in second place in the PRO12 table, their highest position, discounting opening rounds, in any season since 2010/11. Leinster’s only reversal in the first four rounds of the PRO12 was 25-33 in Glasgow in Round 2. The Leinstermen have lost just one of their last six encounters with Welsh regions: 13-23 in Newport on 29 January. Leinster’s only defeat in their last 19 fixtures with Blues in all tournaments since 2007 was 3-11 at Cardiff City Stadium in February 2011. 

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Tom James, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Josh Turnbull, 4 George Earle, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c) 
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Steve Shingler, 23 Dan Fish

Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Rory O'Loughlin, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Johnny Sexton (c), 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Rhys Ruddock, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Dan Leavy, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Mike Ross, 2 James Tracy, 1 Jack McGrath 
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Jamie Heaslip, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Barry Daly

Date: Saturday, 1 October
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park
Kick-off: 19:35 (18:35 GMT)
Referee: Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland), Ian Davies (Wales)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)

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