Preview: Ospreys v Cardiff Blues

Date published: October 6 2016

Cardiff Blues have made four changes for their PRO12 clash against the Ospreys at Liberty Stadium – the first Welsh derby of the season.

With Sam Warburton ruled out due to surgery on his cheekbone and George Earle with an ankle injury, Josh Navidi and Macauley Cook start in the pack.

Head coach Danny Wilson has made two further changes behind, preferring Dan Fish to Matthew Morgan at full-back and handing Garyn Smith his first start of the season.

And after slipping to a slender defeat to Leinster last week, Wilson is determined to see a response at the Liberty Stadium.

He said: "Following last weekend, our first defeat of the season, we have had a good review and view it as a missed opportunity to beat a good Leinster side.

"There are a couple of areas we have identified that we want to improve upon going into the Ospreys game.

"They are a good team with a lot of high profile players and are well coached. It is going to be a tough game but it is a Welsh derby and everyone is excited and motivated for the first one of the season.

"We go into the game on the back of a good start, with four wins from five, so we have a bit of confidence but we know it will be a big test at the Liberty Stadium."

With Navidi and Cook stepping up from the bench, both James Down and Cam Dolan return to the matchday 23 for the first time since the opening game of season.

Meanwhile, the Ospreys have named Sam Davies at fly-half in place of Dan Biggar who is not included in the squad for this week's game.

Paul James will make his 200th Ospreys appearance if he comes off the bench while Tyler Ardron (thumb), Hanno Dirksen (knee), Sam Underhill (shoulder) and Owen Watkin (knee) are sidelined.

"We know that it's going to be tough this weekend but we are all looking forward to it. The Blues are coming down as favourites, they've had a great start to the season and will be confident of getting the win, so we understand that we have to stand up to them and really perform," said head coach Steve Tandy.

"It's building nicely to be a huge game, a big contest between local rivals in front of a passionate crowd, which is exactly what we want. It's the kind of occasion that Welsh rugby needs and that everybody wants to be involved in. With the Blues starting the season so well, they have shown what they are capable of and they will want to really push forward this weekend.

"We showed in the second half in Leinster and then for 80 minutes against Ulster that, if we get everything right that we need to, we can compete. It was incredibly disappointing to lose last weekend in the manner we did, but there's no better game to focus on and get a reaction from the squad than a huge derby match against the Blues.

"October is a busy month for us at the Liberty with two Welsh derbies and a home European Challenge Cup game next week so it's important that we kick start the month well with a top level performance on Friday night. If we can get the right mix of the defensive strength we showed in Ulster and the clinical attacking edge we have seen, then we'll be heading in the right direction and, Friday night should be a great contest."

Form: Ospreys began the 2016/17 Guinness PRO12 campaign with three maximum point victories, but have since slipped to successive defeats, away to Irish provinces Leinster and Ulster. Ospreys have lost just one of their last eight fixtures against fellow Welsh regions: 16-25 to Scarlets at Liberty Stadium on 26 March. Cardiff Blues five game winning run in the Guinness PRO12 was snapped at home to Leinster on Saturday. Blues have won their last four away games in the Championship to equal their best ever sequence on the road set in 2010. Ospreys have won their last ten PRO12 fixtures against Blues since a 21-all draw at Liberty Stadium in April 2011, whilst the capital side’s most recent Championship victory over their western neighbours came at the Cardiff City Stadium on New Year’s Eve 2010.

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Ben John, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Eli Walker, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 James King, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Paul James, 18 Ma'afu Fia, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Dan Lydiate, 21 Tom Habberfield, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Ashley Beck

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Tom James, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Josh Turnbull, 4 Macauley Cook, 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c)
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 James Down, 20 Cam Dolan, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Matthew Morgan

Date: Friday, October 7
Venue: Liberty Stadium
Kick-off: 19:35 BST (18:35 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell, Gareth Newman (both WRU)
TMO: Tim Hayes (WRU)