Hooker Matthew Rees will captain Cardiff Blues for the first time in the PRO12 opener against Glasgow Warriors on Friday.
Hooker Matthew Rees will captain Cardiff Blues for the first time in the RaboDirect PRO12 opener against Glasgow Warriors on Friday.
Rees, a summer recruit from Scarlets, is named in the front-row alongside Taufa'ao Filise and Scott Andrews as the Blues travel to Scotstoun Stadium hunting another strong start to the campaign.
Cardiff Blues have begun the PRO12 season with defeat just once since 2005 but face a Warriors team that finished off their last campaign with a run of seven straight victories in all competitions at their Scotstoun home.
“We've had an intense pre-season and it's a great new challenge for me and the team this season,” said Rees.
“We can be confident with the manner in which we have performed in our two pre-season games and now we need to take that to Glasgow on Friday night. It's a tough start but also an exciting one for all of us.”
Cardiff's director of rugby Phil Davies has named a powerful team with Wales international Bradley Davies and Samoa star Filo Paulo paired in the second-row.
Robin Copeland plays at number eight and is flanked by Macauley Cook and Josh Navidi.
Rhys Patchell and Lloyd Williams combine at half-back while Harry Robinson and Chris Czekaj offer the firepower out wide. Gavin Evans and Owen Williams combine in midfield with Tom Williams in the number 15 jersey.
Speaking ahead of the game, Davies said: “It's important we have a positive start, we want to build momentum in all the competitions.
“It's also important that we continue to develop the team and the individuals through this early period. The season is split into three or four different blocks where you have a full squad of players and then you haven't due to internationals.
“We have to develop consistency so that every time you do have a change in your playing squad you don't have a dip in performance. That is the challenge in this league, getting consistency throughout and the way players come in and out.
“Experience tells me the first games of the season are unpredictable,” he added. “You can train brilliantly and then not perform that well, or you can train average and play exceptional.
“It's about getting the physical and mental approach right to enable us to perform. We need a competitive game to see where we are and we are looking forward to it.”
Meanwhile, Al Kellock has been recalled to the Glasgow Warriors starting line-up for this encounter.
The Warriors captain will partner new Scotland cap Tim Swinson in the second-row, with Scotland U20 captain Jonny Gray providing cover amongst the replacements.
The only change to the backline which started the 29-26 win over Exeter Chiefs last Saturday is the inclusion of Mark Bennett at outside centre. Sean Lamont moves to the right wing, with Tommy Seymour dropping to the bench.
That means Peter Murchie continues at full-back, Bennett partners Alex Dunbar at centre, Byron McGuigan keeps his place on the left wing after scoring three tries in the last two games, with Scott Wight and Henry Pyrgos pairing up again at half-back.
After an impressive debut from the bench against the Chiefs Jerry Yanuyanutawa starts his first game for the club at loosehead, with Pat MacArthur coming in at hooker and Ed Kalman completing the front row.
Richie Vernon starts at number eight, with Chris Fusaro at openside and Rob Harley starting on the blindside.
Ruaridh Jackson has been included on the bench, along with Chris Cusiter, who returned to action last weekend after an 11-month spell on the sidelines. Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid, Moray Low, Tyrone Holmes and Gray are the other replacements.
Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend is keen to get the campaign off to a positive start.
“We're all really looking forward to getting our new season underway in front of our home support,” he said.
“The players have worked extremely hard over the last few months and they are in great physical shape going into this game.
“Cardiff Blues have a very strong squad, and have been in impressive form in pre-season, so we'll have to be at our best to get our season off to a winning start.
“We finished last season with a run of seven straight victories at home and those selected will be doing all they can to continue that form into the new season.
“We had some great nights at Scotstoun last season and our supporters always give the team a huge boost, so I'm sure they'll get right behind them again tomorrow night.”
Form: Glasgow Warriors have been beaten in round one of the RaboDirect PRO12 for the past two seasons, but both encounters were played away from home. The Warriors finished off their last campaign with a run of seven straight victories in all competitions at their Scotstoun home. The Scotsmen have lost only one of their last seven matches against Welsh regions.Cardiff Blues have begun the PRO12 season with defeat just once since 2005: a 21-22 reversal at home to Edinburgh in 2009. The Blues only victory in their last seven games of the 2012/13 season came at home to Zebre on 13 April. Warriors have won their last four encounters with the Blues; whilst the Welshmen have not triumphed on Glasgow soil since a trip to Firhill on 11 February 2011.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 Scott Wight, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Richie Vernon, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Al Kellock (c), 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Ed Kalman, 2 Pat MacArthur, 1 Jerry Yanuyanutawa.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Moray Low, 19 Tyrone Holmes, 20 Jonny Gray, 21 Chris Cusiter, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Tommy Seymour.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Tom Williams, 14 Harry Robinson, 13 Owen Williams, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Chris Czekaj, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Macauley Cook, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Matthew Rees (c), 1 Taufa'ao Filise.
Replacements: 16 Marc Breeze, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Benoit Bourrust, 19 James Down, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Dafydd Hewitt.
Date: September 6
Venue: Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow
Kick-off: 19:35 BST
Referee: Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
Assistant referees: David Changleng (Scotland), Graeme Marshall (Scotland)