Preview: Cardiff Blues v Scarlets

Date published: December 31 2015

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Wales centre Cory Allen will make his first start of the PRO12 season when Cardiff Blues host the Scarlets at Cardiff Arms Park on New Year's Day.

Allen, a second half replacement in last weekend's tense victory over Newport Gwent Dragons, starts his first league game of the campaign after recovering from injury.

Head Coach Danny Wilson makes just three changes to his starting line-up with Dan Fish coming in at full-back, as Rhys Patchell moves to fly-half in a positional change.

The final change to the side is a recall for New Zealander Jarrad Hoeata who comes into the second row to play alongside lock James Down.

"I've been pleased with the way we have played in the last few weeks and we are aiming to start 2016 with a positive performance and result," said Wilson.

"We have been consistent and there is a belief in the squad that we can win these games.

"When you win tight games late on – Connacht and Montpellier at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park and Dragons away – it gives you that confidence that even when you are down you can win games.

"The boys are working hard and doing everything I'm asking of them. We are making the right strides and looking to continue that into the New Year."

Meanwhile, Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac has made three changes to his run-on side that narrowly lost to the Ospreys on Boxing Day with injuries forcing a reshuffle in the pack.
 
Jake Ball and John Barclay have both been ruled out, with a knee and forearm injury respectively, which sees Tom Price and Jack Condy coming into the starting XV for the New Year clash.
 
Scrum-half Gareth Davies, who pulled up in last Saturday's warm-up with a calf injury, returns to the starting line-up with Aled Davies named on the bench.
 
With injuries to James Davies, John Barclay, Rory Pitman and Will Boyde, hooker Emyr Phillips is named as back-row cover on the replacements bench.
 
Speaking ahead of the second festive derby Pivac said: "This game becomes the most important game, I know it's a cliché and we say it every week, but when you're managing a squad like we are with injuries it puts pressure on the group.
 
"We know we're in for a battle up front against the Blues. The good thing about playing them at home is we know what the conditions will be like and it's going to be firm underfoot.”
 
Despite missing out on the victory, and West Wales bragging rights, on Boxing Day Scarlets remain at the top of the PRO12 table, only a point ahead of Connacht in second place.
 
"After our performance on the weekend, and not getting over the line, other results went our way and we remain where we are," added Pivac.

"Having said that there are eight teams who could all finish in the top four.
 
"It's a huge month. Blues and Connacht are our focus at the moment before we head back into European competition.
 
"The PRO12 has been such an enthralling competition this year I think.”

Form: Cardiff Blues' only defeat in their last four first team matches was by a single point in 45 at Montpellier in the European Challenge Cup on 17th December. The Blues solitary defeat at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park in the Guinness PRO12 since last January was by Glasgow Warriors on 7th November. Scarlets continue to head the Guinness PRO12 table despite losing their last three matches in all competitions. Scarlets are the best away team in the league having gained 13 league points from their four trips so far. Both encounters in the Guinness PRO12 last season were won by the home side on the day whilst Scarlets have not been victorious at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park since December 2012.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Tom James, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Manoa Vosawai, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 James Down, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c). 
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Macauley Cook, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Garyn Smith

Scarlets: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Steff Evans, 13 Gareth Owen, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Morgan Allen, 7 Jack Condy, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Lewis Rawlins, 4 Tom Price, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens (c), 1 Rob Evans. 
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Phil John, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Maselino Paulino, 20 Emyr Phillips, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Steve Shingler, 23 Regan King

Date: Friday, January 1
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park
Kick-off: 17:00 GMT
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Ian Davies (Wales), Gwyn Morris (Wales)
TMO: Derek Bevan (Wales)

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