Cardiff Blues are boosted by the return of Wales lock Bradley Davies for their PRO12 derby with the Scarlets at the Arms Park.
Cardiff Blues are boosted by the return of Wales lock Bradley Davies for their PRO12 derby against the Scarlets at the Arms Park on Friday.
Davies, who has recovered from concussion suffered in the match against New Zealand, is joined by hooker Marc Breeze in returning.
Young Cardiff RFC scrum-half Alex Walker is named on the bench for the Blues and could make his regional debut as they face a Scarlets side whose four game winning run in the PRO12 came to a halt last time out with their 12-19 defeat to table-topping Ulster at Parc y Scarlets.
The Blues are the only side in the tournament who have tallied more league points on the road this season than they have accumulated at home, while the West Wales region are the second best away team in the tournament behind Ulster, and have lost just one of their last eleven fixtures against fellow Welsh regions.
“We created opportunities on the field in Montpellier, there was a disallowed try, a couple of penalties and a conversation that went array. There were opportunities that we created that we didn't convert but the overall effort and commitment of the players was fantastic. It is certainly our aim to bounce back in the league over the Christmas period,” said director of rugby Phil Davies.
“We want to turn these performances and these steps in the right direction into wins. The players and coaches are working exceptionally hard and it's a case of turning the corner and turning some of these tight games we have been having recently into victories. Once we get on a bit of a roll I think this team will push forward.
“The Scarlets are a very talented team with lots of quality individuals but also a talented unit. Over the last five years Nigel Davies did a great job developing the team and pushing them forward. Simon Easterby has now taken over the mantel and they are a very good side and well organised.
“They will be a tough team to beat, but we are at home and with a big crowd behind us, we can create a good atmosphere by delivering a top performance.”
The Scarlets have won their last six encounters with the Blues in all competitions, whilst they have not visited the Arms Park since May 2008.
In team news ahead of the game, there's a return to action for back-row forward Josh Turnbull after he picked up a knee injury during his campaign with Wales in the autumn along with fellow Welsh international flanker Aaron Shingler.
“Both our games against the Blues and Ospreys will have the same intensity and ferocity of any Heineken game, derbies are made that way and there won't be much in it or between the sides,” said head coach Simon Easterby
“We have three big games ahead of us and we can't afford to lose any of the positive momentum we've gained in the league so far.
“We will have to be better than last weekend and while we competed well for forty minutes, we have to start much more strongly which we've really looked at this week.
“The game at Exeter showed we're a team that can really attack and we were more creative with the ball and kept it moving. We didn't allow Exeter to set a defensive line but there were too many errors and we'll need to make sure we sure up our first quarter well on Friday night.
“It will be a big atmosphere at the Arms Park and our players have responded well away from home this year and we'll thrive on to going to three exciting grounds with big crowds to play our rugby over the next few weeks.”
Cardiff Blues: 15 Jason Tovey, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Gavin Evans, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Andries Preotrius (c), 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 James Down, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Marc Breeze, 1 Taufa'ao Filise.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Benoit Bourrust, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Robin Copeland, 21 Alex Walker, 22 Ceri Sweeney, 23 Owen Williams.
Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies (capt), 12 Scott Williams, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Kieran Murphy, 7 Aaron Shingler, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Johan Snyman, 4 George Earle, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Emyr Phillips, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Deacon Manu, 19 Sione Timani, 20 Johnathan Edwards, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Gareth Owen, 23 Gareth Maule.
Date: Friday, December 21
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant referees: James Jones (Wales), Sean Brickell (Wales)
Television match official: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)