Preview: Ospreys v Cardiff Blues

Date published: November 27 2015

Talented young fly-half Jarrod Evans is handed his full PRO12 debut as Cardiff Blues travel west to face Ospreys in a derby match at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.

Evans, who has impressed off the bench in European action in recent weeks, is handed a starting spot as Head Coach Danny Wilson makes a total of four changes to his starting line-up.

Wales U20 ace Evans starts alongside scrum-half Lloyd Williams, with Rhys Patchell missing the game as he continues his return to play protocols after suffering a concussion.

The other change in the backs is a call-up for Dan Fish at full-back, with USA international Blaine Scully moving to the wing with Alex Cuthbert ruled out of the derby with minor knee strain.

Flanker Sam Warburton returns to the team, after missing the clash with Harlequins through illness, while Lou Reed is named in the second-row.

Hooker Ethan Lewis comes onto the bench alongside Craig Mitchell, Gareth Davies and Tom Isaacs.

Josh Navidi, Cory Allen, Gareth Anscombe, Ellis Jenkins miss the game through injury while Matthew Rees serves a suspension.

"We're looking forward to the derby and the challenge we will face against the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday," said Wilson.

"The Ospreys have been in good form, have a talented squad and have secured some impressive results in recent games in Europe. But it's important we concentrate on our own performance in Swansea and look to improve on recent displays.

"I have been impressed by Jarrod (Evans) so far this season and he part of the future of Cardiff Blues so it is important he is given a chance to perform on this stage.

"We travel with a motivated squad keen to make amends after the game with Harlequins and there is no better place to do that than in a derby."

Meanwhile, Ospreys Head Coach Steve Tandy says this weekend's clash is a test of his side's resources.

"This is another big game for us. They are coming thick and fast now and will keep coming right through December and Christmas into the New Year," he said.

"It's a real test of our resources and will stretch the squad but we are in a pretty good place at the moment and really want to build on the momentum we've started to generate over the last few weeks.

"We've played two of Europe's form teams over the last two weekends and have come out the other side in a pretty good place. Exeter and Clermont provided us with two different kinds of challenges but we stood up to them and exceeded any expectations on us from outside the environment.

"Last weekend in France was particularly pleasing as we showed a real maturity about our play. There was a game plan, a target for the afternoon, which was to go out there and try to ask questions of them by playing our own game and going for tries.

"At different points in the game it would have been easy to throw the towel in but this group of players won't do that. There's a strong culture in place that we've worked hard to build and that meant they kept pressing on and got their reward on the day.

"This weekend is a different kind of challenge, but one with its own pressures. We've got to park up Europe for a few weeks and concentrate on climbing the PRO12 table. We'll only do that by bringing the same intensity and desire we've seen the last few weeks, combined with attention to detail and a level of accuracy and understanding that has maybe been missing in the first part of the PRO12 campaign.

"The Blues will come here believing they can get the win they want and, like us, need, so that they can move up the table. It's a contest that will bring with it all the usual stuff you get with a derby and there'll be a bigger than normal crowd with plenty of passion. That's fantastic for everybody but we can't get caught up in that. We have to feed off the energy and give the supporters something to sing about, but not let the derby become the be all and end all. We have to be bigger than that and stay focused on what we want to achieve. If we do that we can put together the right level of performance."

Form: Ospreys beat Zebre 36-3 in Swansea in round 7 and are attempting to win back-to back matches for the first time this season. Ospreys only defeat to a fellow Welsh region in the Guinness PRO12 in their last 20 such encounters since January 2012 came on a trip to Parc y Scarlets 3rd. January 2015 whilst no visiting Welsh region has won at Liberty Stadium since a Dragons victory there in 2010. Cardiff Blues only victory in their last eight fixtures in all tournaments was 50-9 in Calvisano in the first round of the European Challenge Cup. The Blues have not won on the road in the Guinness PRO12 since a trip to Newport Gwent Dragons on New Year’s Day.  Ospreys have won their last eight PRO12 contests with The Blues with the capital side’s most recent victory being 27-25 at the Cardiff City Stadium on New Year’s Eve 2010, whilst Blues only win in the tournament at Liberty Stadium came on their very first visit in December 2005. 

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Tom Grabham, 13 Jonathan Spratt, 12 Hanno Dirksen, 11 Eli Walker, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Ryan Bevington.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Lloyd Ashley, 20 James King, 21 Tom Habberfield, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Ben John.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Tom James, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Manoa Vosawai, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 James Down, 4 Lou Reed, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c).

Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Jarrad Hoeata, 20 Macauley Cook, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Tom Isaacs.

Date: Saturday 28 November
Venue: Liberty Stadium
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Nigel Owens
Assistant referees: Leighton Hodges, Wayne Davies
TMO:  Gareth Simmonds