Preview: Cardiff Blues v Scarlets

Date published: October 27 2016

Josh Turnbull will captain Cardiff Blues against his former region as head coach Danny Wilson makes seven changes to face the Scarlets.

Turnbull switches from number eight to openside flanker, in the absence of Sam Warburton and Ellis Jenkins, who has been training with Wales, with Cam Dolan coming into last week’s back-row.

They have however been boosted by the release of Rhys Gill and Lloyd Williams from Wales duty.

Elsewhere Matthew Morgan, Rey Lee-Lo, Tom James and Tomos Williams all return to the starting line-up while George Earle makes a well-timed comeback from injury.

Wales' capital region completed a double over Wayne Pivac’s men last season but head coach Wilson anticipates a full-blooded Welsh derby.

Wilson said: “The derbies are our biggest games, they are where we get our biggest crowds and hopefully that will still be the case without some of the internationals.

“It’s a challenge we are ready to meet and we certainly have a squad of players who are hungry and excited to play in that derby. Hopefully they will put a performance in to get another home win.

“The Scarlets are always a very tough fixture, they are playing with a shape that gives them a lot of width at the moment and are playing a high-temp wide game which we will have to deal with.

“We have to make sure our defensive display is as good as it has been at times this season and that we can test them with our attacking game.

“It is still a derby, it will still have that edge and it’s a home game against the Scarlets.”

New signing Willis Halaholo has trained with the squad this week and while available for selection, Wilson has opted to give the centre more time.

Wilson added: “Willis has looked good in training but he is still getting up to speed with our calls and attacking shape. We required back-three cover on the bench and Dan Fish gives us this but I’m looking forward to seeing Willis out there in the coming weeks.”

Meanwhile for the Scarlets, DTH van der Merwe, Hadleigh Parkes, Steff Evans and Rhys Patchell are joined in the backline by Jonathan Evans at scrum-half, who makes his first competitive start for the region, Steff Hughes in midfield and Aled Thomas at full-back.

In the pack Wyn Jones links up with a new-look front row in Ryan Elias and Werner Kruger, Tom Price returns from injury to join David Bulbring in the second row whilst Pivac has kept his backrow of Aaron Shingler, Will Boyde and John Barclay unchanged.

Looking ahead to the big derby clash head coach Pivac said: "I think playing at home is a strength for the Blues. They're obviously used to the fast surface, they play a game at home that is expansive.

"Last year they got the better of us physically. It's a derby so we have to make sure we're up for the challenge.

"Whoever takes the field 1 to 15 has a role to play. Clearly there's an opportunity now with internationals going away. Other players will get more game time and it's fantastic for them. You have to factor in the enthusiasm those guys bring.

"It's going to be a difficult night. We've got to make it happen, it starts Friday night. It's a big game for us but I think it's a level playing field."

Form: Cardiff Blues made a great start to their European Challenge Cup campaign beating Bristol and Pau to head the pool four table after two rounds. The Blues have lost their last two PRO12 encounters but have not lost three in a row in the Championship since November 2015. The capital side’s only defeat to a fellow Welsh region at Cardiff Arms Park since December 2013 was to the Dragons in the PRO12 on Boxing Day 2014. Scarlets have won their last three matches in the PRO12 but have not won four in a row in the competition since this time last year. Scarlets' only victory in their last five away games in all tournaments was 22-6 in Treviso in the PRO12 Round 5. The west Walians have won three of their last four fixtures against fellow Welsh regions. The Blues achieved the season’s double over Scarlets last year for the first time since season 2009/10. Scarlets have not been successful on Cardiff soil since a 9-6 victory at Cardiff Arms Park in December 2012. 

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Tom James, 10 Steve Shingler, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Cam Dolan, 7 Josh Turnbull (c), 6 Macauley Cook, 5 James Down, 4 George Earle, 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Rhys Gill
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Seb Lewis, 20 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Dan Fish

Scarlets: 15 Aled Thomas, 14 DTH van der Merwe, 13 Steff Hughes, 12 Hadleigh Parkes (c), 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 John Barclay, 7 Will Boyde, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Tom Price, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Dylan Evans, 18 Peter Edwards, 19 Lewis Rawlins, 20 James Davies, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Ioan Nicholas

Date: Friday, October 28
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park
Kick-off: 19:35 BST (18:35 GMT)
Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Cammy Rudkin (Scotland), Dai Cambourne (Wales)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Ireland)