Preview: Cardiff Blues v Scarlets

Date published: April 18 2014

Matthew Rees makes his first start for Cardiff Blues since his return in Sunday's derby with the Scarlets at Millenium Stadium.

Matthew Rees makes his first start for Cardiff Blues since his return in Sunday's derby with the Scarlets at Millenium Stadium in the first part of 'Judgement Day II'.

Hooker Rees is one of three changes to the starting line-up for Blues as they aim to make it a hat-trick of successive league wins.

Centre Dafydd Hewitt is also called up after his late try bonus heroics against Edinburgh.

Lock Bradley Davies will also make his first start of the calendar year after successfully coming on as a replacement in the victory in Scotland.

Wing Chris Czekaj will hit another memorable milestone in his career as he plays his 100th game in the PRO12.

Hooker Rhys Williams and lock Chris Dicomidis are named among the replacements.

Blues have climbed to ninth place in the standings and are just two points off seventh spot ahead of the double header of regional rugby at the home of Welsh rugby.

“I think we have turned 'a' corner but not 'the' corner with recent results. We've improved and we've won two games, but it's only two games,” said defence coach Dale McIntosh.

“We face a formidable challenge on Sunday and perhaps we will see where we really are. It's only two games we have won and we need to keep building.

“We want passion and desire from our players. We will need that tenacity and edge.

“The senior players coming back in has helped us; the likes of Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees, Alex Cuthbert.

“That promotes accountability, firstly in training and secondly in the game. We don't players to drift through the week because what you do in training you take into the game.

“The senior players get out there and make the youngsters understand that is not acceptable.

“We can bang the drums all we want as coaches, and we do that, but that is all we are: coaches.

“Accountability comes on the pitch when the guys are next to you on the battlefield. When he is shouting at you that is when you have to stand up and take notice.”

Meanwhile, four of the Scarlets' key players, John Barclay, Samson Lee, Phil John and PRO12 top try scorer Gareth Davies, have been named in the region's starting XV having missed last weekend's clash against Zebre at Parc y Scarlets.

Gareth Maule makes a return to the starting line-up alongside Wales and British & Irish Lions centre and Scarlets captain Jonathan Davies. Ken Owens also makes a return to the front row and is replaced on the bench by Kirby Myhill with Emyr Phillips absent with a shoulder injury.

Scarlets back-row forward Josh Turnbull, who will be joining Cardiff Blues next season, moves to number eight with Sione Timani moving to the replacements bench.

“We have three derby games coming up and they're all key for us – particularly as we have not won a Welsh derby this season,” said head coach Simon Easterby.

“There's more at stake than just league points. We have plenty to play for in our remaining games but we're not looking past the Blues on Sunday.

“I think with everyone that's fit and available it's a good trial for international players, matching up against each other – places up for grabs like to think that the players are playing for their regions first and foremost though.”

Form: Cardiff Blues have triumphed in their last two PRO12 matches but have not won three in a row in the competition since November 2011.

The Blues only victory in their last six matches against fellow Welsh Regions was 21-13 at home to the Dragons on New Year's Day.

Cardiff Blues have not been victorious at Millennium Stadium since they beat Toulouse there in the European Cup quarter final in April 2009.

Scarlets have won their last two games, against Connacht and Zebre, but have slipped to three straight defeats against Welsh opponents in the PRO12.

The Llanelli based side have been victorious on both of their previous visits to Millennium Stadium, beating Bath there in the Anglo-Welsh semi-final in 2006 and overcoming the Dragons in last season's “Judgement Day” double header.

The Scarlets have won their last eight encounters with Cardiff Blues in all tournaments since the Blues victory at Parc y Scarlets in the PROI2 in April 2010.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Chris Czekaj, 10 Gareth Davies, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Macauley Cook, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Tau'fao Filise, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c)
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Chris Dicomidis, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Simon Humberstone, 23 Gavin Evans

Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Kristian Phillips, 13 Jonathan Davies (c), 12 Gareth Maule, 11 Jordan Williams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Josh Turnbull, 7 John Barclay, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 George Earle, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Phil John
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Johan Snyman, 20 Sione Timani, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Frazier Climo

Date: Sunday 20th April
Venue: Millenium Stadium
Kick-off: 1400 (local & BST)
Referee: Ian Davies (Wal)
Assistant referees: Sean Brickell, Simon Rees (both Wal)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wal)