Planet Rugby

Preview: Cardiff Blues v Scarlets

24th September 2009 16:27

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Matthew Rees Scarlets

Matthew Rees: Back in action

Cardiff Blues have been boosted by the return of centre Tom Shanklin alongside Jamie Roberts for their clash with the Scarlets on Saturday.

New signing Sam Norton-Knight is given another chance to impress in the first Welsh derby of the season, which takes place at Cardiff City Stadium.

"Last season we won 60 per cent of our games by one score or less, and falling on the right side of the result, and this season so far we've been on the wrong side," said boss David Young, who will be without the injured Leigh Halfpenny.

"That was always going to be the concern - luck does change. It's plain to see, we've got to create more opportunities, be far more threatening with the ball and score more points.

"If we do, we will get things right."

Meanwhile, the Scarlets' starting XV against the Blues shows one change from last weekend's line-up: Richie Pugh comes in at flank for an injured Dafydd Jones.

From the bench there could be first competitive Scarlets action for exciting young half-back pairing Tavis Knoyle and Dan Newton.

Scarlets Head Coach Nigel Davies welcomes back Lions hero, Matthew Rees who is on the bench and the former believes the clash will be an intense affair.

"If we look back to last season, the Blues didn't have the strongest of starts and people were writing them off after the first three weeks. But we all saw what they were able to do after that," he said.

"Form doesn't count for much in these types of encounters - particularly Welsh derbies like this one, the first of the season. We have only won one game ourselves, it's going to be pretty intense stuff - it will be about desire and I am sure the Blues are going to be desperate for a win."

For Saturday's game, Coach Davies has opted to rest Lions fly-half Stephen Jones as a precaution to protect a minor ankle injury picked up in the past week and will rest Rhys Thomas following a cut to his knee which needed stitches this week.

Davies said he was keen to ensure that Rees and Jones were given sufficient time to get back into rugby with the region.

He said: "We have to be very careful with our Lions; they've come back from a hugely intense Test series and it does take time to re-adapt to the regional game."

Davies, who has previously worked with players like Dwayne Peel and Mike Phillip through the youth system has described Knoyle as "a very bright young talent" - saying the young scrum half has excited him as much as Peel and Phillips aged 18.

"Having worked with players like Dwayne Peel and Mike Philips as they came through the youth system, Tavis has excited me as much as those players when they were 18, and shows the signs of an exceptional ability.

"He's got a fresh approach, has given the place a real buzz since he joined us and it will be an exciting prospect for him to have the opportunity to play his first regional game with the Scarlets this weekend."

Knoyle, eager to step out for his first game with the region, has said he can't wait to get going. "This is a great opportunity for me and I've been really impressed and excited about being part of the Scarlets since I joined in May.

"The set-up has proved it has got a lot of time for youngsters, they want to develop us I've been learning a lot from the coaches and the players around me.

"I am very excited about my future with the Scarlets. I grew up watching them and have seen what incredible teams and players they have produced over the years. And now I'm putting on the jersey, its brilliant - I've come here for the rugby and getting the opportunity to play regularly."

Form: Cardiff Blues have lost their last five matches in the Magners League and another defeat would set an unwanted Blues record for successive reversals. The Blues have lost their last three home matches since a 20-12 victory over Munster at the Arms Park on 10 May. Scarlets have slipped to back to back defeats, whilst their only victory in their last five away encounters in all competitions was on Blues' soil: 30-9 at the Arms Park on 13 May. Scarlets have won four of the last five meetings between the two regions.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Ben Blair, 14 Richard Mustoe, 13 Tom Shanklin, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Gareth Thomas, 10 Sam Norton-Knight, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Xavier Rush, 7 Robin Sowden-Taylor, 6 Maama Molitika, 5 Paul Tito (capt), 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 Darren Morris, 17 Gareth Williams, 18 Deiniol Jones, 19 Andy Powell, 20 Gareth Cooper, 21 Ceri Sweeney, 22 Gavin Evans.

Scarlets: 15 Daniel Evans, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 Mark Jones (c), 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Martin Roberts, 8 David Lyons, 7 Richie Pugh, 6 Simon Easterby, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Lou Reed, 3 Deacon Manu, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Iestyn Thomas,
Replacements: 16 Phil John, 17 Matthew Rees, 18 Vernon Cooper, 19 Josh Turnbull, 20 Tavis Knoyle, 21 Dan Newton, 22 Lee Williams.

Date: Saturday, September 26
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium
Kick-off: 18.30 BST
Referee: Andrew Small.
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris (WRU), Huw David (WRU).
TMO: Neil Ballard (WRU).

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