Preview: Cardiff Blues v Newport Gwent Dragons

Date published: December 23 2016

Sam Warburton will captain Cardiff Blues as he makes his 100th appearance for the region in their Boxing Day derby with the Dragons.

The 28-year-old made his debut for the Blues in 2009 and recently penned a new national dual contract to remain at Cardiff Arms Park.

He continues as skipper, in the absence of Gethin Jenkins, as Danny Wilson makes five changes to the starting line-up that faced Bath.

The Blues have been boosted by the return to fitness of Kristian Dacey, Nick Williams, Tom James and Alex Cuthbert, while Scott Andrews steps into the starting line-up.

Cardiff Blues have won their last three Championship encounters against their east Wales rivals and are aiming to bounce back following two consecutive defeats in the competition.

Head coach Wilson said: “The boys are excited to get back on the pitch and you could not ask for a better fixture than our local rivals on Boxing Day.

“The extended turnaround has allowed us to get some players back fit and it was a good selection discussion following the way our squad has been tested in recent weeks. We pride ourselves on Welsh derbies and following defeats to the Ospreys and Scarlets this season we are determined to get back to winning ways.”

Meanwhile, Dragons’ head coach Kingsley Jones has made five changes to the team that beat Worcester Warriors in the European Rugby Challenge Cup last weekend at Rodney Parade.

These changes include the return of Welsh internationals Cory Hill and Tyler Morgan to the starting XV.

Tom Prydie moves back to the full-back position after covering wing last weekend and this sees the return of Pat Howard as he joins fellow winger Ashton Hewitt in the back three.

The centre partnership sees Tyler Morgan start alongside Adam Warren, with fly-half Angus O’Brien and last week’s Man of the Match Tavis Knoyle retaining their positions.

The front row sees hooker Thomas Rhys Thomas return, after an illness kept him out last week, and he joins props Sam Hobbs and Lloyd Fairbrother.

The second row has one change made to it as Cory Hill joins Rynard Landman who recently signed an extension with the Welsh region. The back row sees skipper Lewis Evans move to flanker as Ed Jackson returns to number eight, with Ollie Griffiths included in the back row too.

The replacements bench sees Elliot Dee, Thomas Davies, Brok Harris, Matthew Screech, Nick Crosswell, Sarel Pretorius, Dorian Jones and Sam Beard all named.

Form: Cardiff Blues have won just one of their last five matches in all tournaments: 28-3 at home to Bath in Round 3 of the Challenge Cup, whilst their most recent victory in the PRO12 was at Treviso on November 4. The Blues have lost their last three matches against a fellow Welsh region in the Championship. Newport Gwent Dragons have won two of their last three PRO12 fixtures, at home to Connacht in Round 8 and Edinburgh in Round 9, but they have not won away from home since beating Gloucester at Kingsholm in the quarter-finals of last season’s Challenge Cup. Dragons have lost their last eleven encounters against fellow Welsh regions in the Championship. Cardiff Blues have lost just once to Newport Gwent Dragons at Cardiff Arms Park since 2003; on Boxing Day 2014.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Tom James, 10 Steven Shingler, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Josh Navidi, 5 James Down, 4 Macauley Cook, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Rhys Gill
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Taufa’ao Filise, 19 Jarrad Hoeata, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Nicky Robinson, 23 Cory Allen

Newport Gwent Dragons: 15 Tom Prydie, 14 Pat Howard, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Angus O’Brien, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Ed Jackson, 7 Ollie Griffiths, 6 Lewis Evans (c), 5 Rynard Landman, 4 Cory Hill, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Thomas Rhys Thomas, 1 Sam Hobbs
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Matthew Screech, 20 Nick Crosswell, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Dorian Jones, 23 Sam Beard

Date: Monday, December 26
Venue: Arms Park
Kick-off: 14:05 GMT
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Rhys Thomas (Wales), Sean Brickell (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)