Preview: Scarlets v Cardiff Blues

Date published: May 4 2012

Cardiff Blues have made four changes for their final game of the RaboDirect 2011/12 regular season, against the Scarlets on Saturday.

Cardiff Blues have made four changes for their final game of the RaboDirect 2011/12 regular season, against the Scarlets in Llanelli on Saturday.

In the pack they welcome back number eight Andries Pretorius, who plays his first game since facing Racing Metro in the Heineken Cup in November. The young South African has recovered from a knee injury and is joined in the back-row by Josh Navidi at openside.

There are two changes in the backs with Chris Czekaj replacing Ben Blair at full-back and Harry Robinson replacing Tom James on the wing.

“I'm really looking forward to being back on the pitch after such a long lay off,” said Pretorius.

“It's unbelievably frustrating being on the sidelines but I've been working hard with our conditioning and coaching staff to set myself goals to be able to come back.

“I've also had the chance to work on some upper body work and been staying positive.

“It's very early days, as I only started running a few weeks ago, so I'm not where I'd like to be, as I set myself high standards.

“However, it will be good to get one last game before the end of the season.

“I'm also glad to have the opportunity to play alongside people such as Gethin and Maama who I've learnt so much from during my time at the Blues.

“Just watching these guys train you learn so much as they are quality players.”

The Scarlets have won their last four games against Cardiff Blues in all competitions, but being the final game for Casey Laulala, Maama Molitika, Gethin Jenkins, John Yapp, Richie Rees and Dan Parks there is a determination to finish on a high.

Meanwhile, Stephen Jones will start at centre against the Blues as he brings the curtain down on a Scarlets playing career spanning 15 seasons.

The eagerly-awaited big Welsh derby at Parc y Scarlets will be watched by a full house with tickets for more than 11,000 of its 15,000 seats already sold this week. The Scarlets will be looking to retain their unbeaten record against Welsh regions this season and a big send-off for one of their most popular and committed Scarlets of recent decades.

Jones, the Scarlets all-time points record holder on 2850 points and 315 appearances in a Scarlets shirt still holds the record of most points scored in a league game (32) against Swansea in October 2002 – with 741 points in league games during his career.

The Scarlets also bid farewell to some Parc y Scarlets heroes of past seasons including Scottish international Sean Lamont, England number eight Ben Morgan, second-rows Dominic Day and Lou Reed, full back Dan Evans as well as retiring front rowers, Iestyn Thomas and Rhys Thomas.

“This will be a hugely competitive fixture, it's a local derby, and there's lot of pride of stake for the players. We still have an outside chance of going through, but importantly, it's the fact playing the Blues and we are very proud of our unbeaten record against Welsh regions this season so we want to maintain that,” said Scarlets Head Coach Nigel Davies.

“It will be an opportunity to see some great battles and duals on the pitch with the quality of a host of young players on show. It's going to be a great finale for the season.

“This fixture highlights what's good in regional rugby and in our game in Wales not only from those who have given so much to the regional game like Stephen Jones, but also the younger players who have cut their teeth on regional rugby.

“It's a game that will celebrate what regional rugby in Wales is all about with rising Welsh players that don't forget where they have come from and the club system that has supported them. I will show that the game overall is very healthy and while there are challenges for the regions we will work to resolve them because there's a lot of positives in our game, and the quality of rugby and the performance on the field on Saturday will demonstrate that.”

Form: Scarlets only win in their last four matches in all competitions was 26-23 in Aironi on 15 April. Scarlets have suffered just one defeat at Parc y Scarlets in the RaboDirect PRO12 this season: 10-15 to Leinster in round four. Scarlets have not lost to a fellow Welsh region in the PRO12 since they visited Ospreys on 27 December 2010. Cardiff Blues 38-13 win over Edinburgh last time out ended a five game losing streak. Blues only victory in their last six away encounters was 20-13 in Treviso on 3 March. The Blues' only win over a fellow Welsh region since New Year's Eve 2010 was at home to Dragons on 23 December 2011. Scarlets have won their last four games against Cardiff Blues in all competitions., whilst the Blues only two previous wins on Llanelli soil both came in 2010 in the PRO12 and the Anglo-Welsh Cup.

The teams:

Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Nick Reynolds, 12 Stephen Jones, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Josh Turnbull (capt), 6 Kieran Murphy, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Aaron Shingler, 3 Deacon Manu, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rhodri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Phil John, 18 Simon Gardiner, 19 Damian Welch, 20 Johnathan Edwards, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Adam Warren, 23 Viliame Iongi.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Chris Czekaj, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Ceri Sweeney, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Andries Pretorius, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Maama Molitika, 5 James Down, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Marc Breeze, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 John Yapp, 18 Ryan Harford, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Richie Rees, 22 Dan Parks, 23 Gavin Evans.

Date: Saturday, May 5
Kick-off: 19:30 BST
Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Tim Hayes (Wales), Ian Davies (Wales)