Preview: Cardiff Blues v Scarlets

Date published: December 18 2014

Lou Reed returns to the starting line-up to face his former region as Cardiff Blues tackle Scarlets in a huge Welsh PRO12 derby on Friday.

Reed is one of five changes made by Cardiff Blues director of rugby Mark Hammett as they target a third win of the campaign in the league.

Argentina international duo Lucas Amorosino and Joaquin Tuculet, who scored a spectacular try on his debut for the region against Treviso last month, both earn recalls after missing European action.

Scrum-half Lewis Jones will partner Gareth Anscombe at half-back, with Lloyd Williams missing the game through injury.

Hooker Kristian Dacey is also named in the front-row alongside captain Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones.

Scrum-half Tavis Knoyle and centre Tom Isaacs both earn recalls to the replacements bench along with prop Taufa’ao Filise who is set to claim legendary status at the region.

If Tongan ace Filise comes off the bench he will make a record-breaking 183rd appearance for Blues, putting him clear in the all-time appearance charts.

“We’re all looking forward to the game and the battle of ‘East versus West’,” said Hammett.

“It will be a new experience for me and my first taste of a festive Welsh derby. But I’ve heard all about the big crowds and the fantastic atmosphere these games generate. We now need to harness that emotion and energy to help us perform.

“Scarlets secured an impressive European win over Ulster Rugby last weekend and are powerful side that plays with real aggression,” he added.

“They like to pin you back and create pressure. They also have real line speed in defence and are physical around the contact area.

“We’ve got to be ready to meet that challenge head on because we know how crucial a win could be for our league campaign and aspirations of climbing the table.”

Meanwhile, the Scarlets will be looking for a first away victory of the season when they run out against their Welsh rivals.

Wayne Pivac’s men have not lost a game in the Guinness PRO12 at Parc y Scarlets this season but are yet to secure a victory on the road, a 20-20 draw against Edinburgh has been the only away result. Scarlets were defeated 8-14 at Connacht in round 9 and have not lost back-to-back Guinness PRO12 encounters since.

The team features four changes from the starting XV that featured against Ulster in the Champions Cup last weekend. Liam Williams has been ruled out of the Guinness PRO12 clash with a sprained ankle with young full-back Steffan Evans making only his fourth start in the competition.

Harry Robinson makes a return on the wing against his former team-mates whilst Aled Davies makes a return to the scrum-half berth. Jake Ball has recovered from a virus that kept him out of last week’s clash.

“Every new opposition is a new experience for me here and I’m enjoying it. On paper they’re a very good side, don’t think they’ve performed to the best of their ability. We need to stay focused and discipline is what we’ll need. We’ll have to be at the top of our game,” said Scarlets head coach Pivac.

“It’s a massive game. They still have ambitions in the competition; there’s pressure to get results for all coaches and all teams.

“Our record away from home hasn’t been good – in that context it’s a big game for us. We need to focus on our game.”

Form: Cardiff Blues last five encounters in all tournaments have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst in the Guinness PRO12 their 36-25 home win over Treviso in round 9 ended a seven game winless streak. The Blues have won four of their last five fixtures at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park and have not lost at home to a fellow Welsh Region since Ospreys were the visitors 12 months ago. Scarlets were defeated 8-14 at Connacht in round 9 and have not lost back-to-back Guinness PRO12 encounters since March. Scarlets are winless in their last ten away matches in all tournaments since a trip to Treviso in the PRO12 on 8th February. Scarlets last five encounters with a fellow Welsh region in the PRO12 have all been won by the home side on the day. Cardiff Blues only victory in their last eight encounters with Scarlets in the tournament was 17-13 on ‘Judgement Day’ at Millennium Stadium in April. Scarlets have won on their last two visits to the Arms Park in PRO12.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Adam Thomas, 11 Lucas Amorosino, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Josh Navidi, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Lou Reed, 4 Filo Paulo, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c).
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Taufa’ao Filise, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Tom Isaacs.

Scarlets: 15 Steffan Evans, 14 Harry Robinson, 13 Regan King, 12 Scott Williams (capt), 11 Michael Tagicakibau, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Rob McCusker, 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Johan Snyman, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Emyr Phillips, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Lewis Rawlins, 20 Will Boyde, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Hadleigh Parkes.

Date: Friday, December 19
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Venue: BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park
Referee: Dudley Phillips (IRFU, 44th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Neil Hennessy, Sean Brickell (both WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Ray Wilton (WRU)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (WRU)