Preview: Cardiff Blues v Leinster

Date published: January 10 2015

Welsh international Gethin Jenkins will make his 150th appearance for Cardiff Blues as they tackle reigning champions Leinster on Saturday.

A late change in the Blues second row following Friday’s captain’s run sees Jarrad Hoeata starts the game in place of Filo Paulo and Miles Normandale is called onto the bench.

Front-row Jenkins – who fittingly also made his debut for the region against Leinster back in September 2004 – will captain the side as he reaches another big milestone in his career.

Director of rugby Mark Hammett makes just three changes to the starting line-up that defeated the Dragons on New Year’s Day.

Tighthead prop Adam Jones is called into the front-row, to pack down with Kristian Dacey and skipper Jenkins.

Lock Lou Reed is also called up to join forces with Samoa international Filo Paulo in the second-row.

The final change sees a return for wing Alex Cuthbert while fit-again scrum-half Lloyd Williams is named among the replacements.

The fixture will be the Blues first Guinness PRO12 fixture on home soil in 2015 and boss Hammett is aware of the size of the challenge the region faces against the champions.

“Leinster have set the benchmark for many clubs in European rugby and will arrive at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park full of confidence and with a talented squad,” he said.

“They are powerful in the set piece and look to keep the ball in hand and alive when they attack. When they are defending they use the choke tackle to really put pressure on.

“Our contact work will have to go up another notch and we need to work hard in both attack and defence if we are to secure an important result.”

Meanwhile, there are eleven changes in total as Leinster boss Matt O’Connor welcomes back from injury some high profile names and also those that have been rested during the last few games.

Squad vice-captain Rob Kearney is back in harness at full-back and leads the side with brother Dave on the left wing and Fergus McFadden selected on the right.

It’s an all new centre partnership with Noel Reid at twelve and Ben Te’o outside him for his third appearance of the season since joining from the South Sydney Rabbitohs and his first start since fracturing his forearm in the Round 7 defeat of Edinburgh in October.

Noel Reid is back for the first time since his man of the match performance against Connacht in December. He had been selected on the bench for the Munster game but illness ruled him out of that and the Ulster game. In the half-backs Luke McGrath starts at scrum-half with Jimmy Gopperth selected at ten.

In the pack, it’s a completely new front five with a front-row full of Irish internationals as Michael Bent, Sean Cronin and Marty Moore start. It is Moore’s first involvement since the away trip in October against Zebre. A shoulder injury early in that game has kept him sidelined until now. The second-row features Tom Denton and Kane Douglas.

Finally in the back-row Dominic Ryan has passed his return to play protocols having been replaced early in the game against Munster on St. Stephen’s Day and starts at blindside while Jordi Murphy starts at openside. Finally, after his Guinness PRO12 man of the match performance last week against Ulster, Jack Conan starts at eight.

Form: Cardiff Blues have won three of their last four fixtures in the Guinness PRO12 – the reversal being at home to Newport Gwent Dragons on Boxing Day. The Blues are winless in their four encounters with Irish provinces this season, with Ulster and Munster already being victorious at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park. Leinster’s only defeat in their last seven Guinness PRO12 fixtures came against Munster in Limerick on St Stephen’s Day, whilst their only away victory in the tournament this season came in round 6 on a visit to Zebre. The Leinstermen have won all three games they have played against Welsh regions this season. Blues only success in their last 16 encounters with Leinster in all competitions since 2007 was 11-3 at the Cardiff City Stadium in the PRO12 in February 2011.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues (revised): 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Lucas Amorosino, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tavis Knoyle,8 Josh Navidi 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 Lou Reed, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c).
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18Taufa’ao Filise, 19 Miles Normandale, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Adam Thomas

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney (c), 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Ben Te’o, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Dominic Ryan, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Tom Denton, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Michael Bent.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Jamie Hagan, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Mike McCarthy, 20 Josh Van Der Flier, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Darragh Fanning.

Date: Saturday, January 10
Venue: BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park
Kick-off: 14:40 GMT
Referee: Neil Paterson (SRU, 66th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens, Rhys Thomas (both WRU)
Citing Commissioner: John Charles (WRU)
TMO: Tim Hayes (WRU)