Planet Rugby

Preview: Cardiff Blues v Munster

22nd November 2013 09:34

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Sam Hobbs Cradiff Blues

Captain: Sam Hobbs

Sam Hobbs will captain Cardiff Blues as the region returns to RaboDirect PRO12 action against league leaders Munster at the Arms Park on Saturday.

Blues make a total of five changes to the side that defeated Ospreys in the LV= Cup last week.

A new-look back-row sees flankers Andries Pretorius and Josh Navidi declared fit to join forces with number eight Robin Copeland.

Prop Taufa'ao Filise is also recalled to the front-row in the final change to the home pack.

Scrum-half Lewis Jones is named among the backs, partnering fly-half Simon Humberstone on his first start for the region at the Arms Park, while Tom Williams will start at full-back.

Gareth Davies returns among the replacements while there could be first ever appearance for Academy scrum half Tomos Williams, with the Wales U18 international on the bench.

Blues remain without a number of players due to injury and international call-ups, with Bradley Davies and Cory Allen joining the injury list this week after autumn series action with Wales.

But Director of Rugby Phil Davies insists the squad are relishing the test against high-flying Munster.

"It's a challenging time of the year with players away on international duty and injuries biting. But you have to plan well and I enjoy this time of season," he said.

"We are giving the squad a real test. We have over 20 players unavailable to us because of injuries and call-ups, but what that does is give other people opportunities.

"The players who have been given a chance recently have really stood up and done well and we are excited about what we are trying to develop.

"Munster have changed a lot over the last year or so, but they are top of the league at this stage so you have to give them huge respect for that," he added.

"A lot has work has gone on in recent seasons with the era that contained the likes of Ronan O'Gara, Tomas O'Leary, David Wallace and Alan Quinlan coming to an end.

"A lot of new players have come to the fore and Munster have changed their style. It is clearly suiting them because they are top of the table and playing well. It's a big test for us at home and an exciting one as we return to league action."

Meanwhile, Felix Jones, Donncha O'Callaghan and James Coughlan have all been released from the Irish camp with Jones starting at full-back and the latter pair among the replacements for Munster.

Head coach Rob Penney has made five changes to the side that beat Ospreys in Munster's last outing at Thomond Park.

Dave Kilcoyne drops to the bench with James Cronin coming into the front-row alongside BJ Botha and Damien Varley who captains the side.

The only other change in the forwards sees Billy Holland return to the side ahead of Donncha O'Callaghan and he joins fellow lock Dave Foley in the starting XV.

There are three changes in the backs with Cathal Sheridan coming in for Duncan Williams at scrum-half and JJ Hanrahan will earn his 20th cap for Munster as he replaces the injured Ian Keatley at fly-half.

The centre partnership of Ivan Dineen and former Cardiff Blue Casey Laulala remains intact with Andrew Conway coming back into the side.

Form: Cardiff Blues last four games in the RaboDirect PRO12 have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst their only victory over an Irish province in their last six fixtures was 21-10 at home to Connacht on 13th September. Munster have lost only one of their last six matches in all tournaments: 23-29 to Edinburgh at Murrayfield in the European Cup on 12th October. The Munstermen have won both of their clashes with Welsh regions so far this season. The Blues 17-6 victory in Cork in January ended a five game losing run to Munster, whilst the Irishmen have not lost to the Blues in Wales since 2010.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Tom Williams, 14 Richard Smith, 13 Gavin Evans, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Chris Czekaj, 10 Simon Humberstone, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Andries Pretorius, 5 James Down, 4 Macauley Cook, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Sam Hobbs (c).
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Benoit Bourrust, 19 Thomas Young, 20 Rory Watts-Jones, 21 Luke Hamilton, 22 Tomos Williams, 23 Gareth Davies.

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Ivan Dineen, 11 Johne Murphy, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Cathal Sheridan, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Sean Dougall, 6 Dave O'Callaghan, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Dave Foley, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Donncha O'Callaghan, 20 James Coughlan, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Johnny Holland, 23 Denis Hurley.

Date: Saturday, November 23
Kick-off: 18:30 GMT
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Greg Morgan (Wales), Justin Williams (Wales)
Television match official: Paul Adams (Wales)

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