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Preview: Gloucester v Cardiff Blues

27th January 2012 07:32

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Ollie Phillips

Debut: Ollie Phillips

With many key players away at various international camps, Gloucester have made numerous changes for the visit of Cardiff Blues in the LV= Cup.

Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, James Simpson-Daniel and Alex Brown retain their places in the side from last week's Heineken Cup win over Toulouse.

However, Gloucester, as the defending LV= Cup champions, still have a lot to play for and Bryan Redpath is still able to name a strong selection.

New signing Ollie Phillips makes his first appearance in the Cherry and White, Tim Molenaar makes his first start of the season and there is also an opportunity for England U20 international Ryan Mills at fly-half.

Up front, tighthead prop Shaun Knight is set for his first start for the club while Andy Hazell and Brett Deacon make their first starts since Connacht at home on December 17.

Head coach Redpath shrugged off the fact that he's denied the services of so many when he spoke to the media in the week, preferring to focus on the strength of the squad.

"Last Friday night was great in terms of creating a feel good factor and we now have to carry that on even though there is a big swing in personnel," he said.

"We're having to make full use of the squad but most have played first team this season and also played very well in the A League, where our form in the last four games was really good.

"Now, they're going to get their opportunity on Saturday and also over the next few weeks during the Six Nations period.

"Quite a few of them have been chomping at the bit, desperate to play. Our squad is important, they're all good club men and the next six weeks are important to us."

Meanwhile, the Blues make a number of changes to the side that secured a Heineken Cup quarter-final in defeating Racing Metro last weekend, as the opportunity to once again give youth its chance is taken by the coaching team.

"The team we've selected to face Gloucester is a mixture of youth and experience," said Cardiff Blues back coach Gareth Baber.

"It's been a pretty full on season so far, so we've looked for some players to have a bit of time off and bit of a rest after our Heineken campaign.

"Equally we have other players who need a bit of game time to keep the level of competition as high as possible within the squad.

"I think it's important for those players to get a chance to express themselves. Some of the younger ones who have been playing in the Premiership will come in and force their name forward.

"It also gives the opportunity for other players in the squad who have picked up injuries over the last couple of months. It's important for them to get back up to the level where we need them to be for these two LV= Cup games and pushing forward to the RaboDirect.

"Tom James has played 13 previously for Cardiff RFC so it's another angle in terms of different tactic as you play the game.

"Tom is a winger and that's where he sees himself, but in terms of a squad if you've got someone who can play wing and 13, it opens up avenues for you in terms of selection."

Speaking of the return from injury of Blair, Baber revealed his delight in naming the full-back.

"Ben Blair brings a vast amount of experience having been a solid front line player for us for the past five to six seasons," he added.

"Obviously he's been out for a long time with his knee injury but we hope to see him back to his kicking best and controlling the back three for us, solid under high balls and driving our attack in wide areas."

Blair has good memories of playing Gloucester having recorded 50 points against the West Country opponents in 3 previous games, including a win and 25 points in the EDF Energy Cup Final in 2009, a result which Gloucester avenged in the tournament the following term.

Elsewhere, John Yapp is in line to make his 153rd appearance for the Blues and Chris Czekaj retains his place in a team that is captained by second-row Macauley Cook.

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Tom Voyce, 14 Ollie Phillips, 13 Tim Molenaar, 12 Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, 11 James Simpson-Daniel, 10 Ryan Mills, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Brett Deacon, 7 Andy Hazell, 6 Peter Buxton (capt), 5 Alex Brown, 4 Will James, 3 Shaun Knight, 2 Matias Cortese, 1 Dan Murphy.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Matt Cox, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Nick Runciman, 22 Mike Tindall, 23 Henry Trinder.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Ben Blair, 14 Richard Mustoe, 13 Tom James, 12 Cory Allen, 11 Chris Czekaj, 10 Gareth Davies, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Luke Hamilton, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Macauley Cook (capt), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Sam Hobbs, 2 Marc Breeze, 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Nathan Trevett, 18 Ryan Harford, 19 Matthew Screech, 20 Ruben Tucker, 21 Tom Rowlands, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Dan Fish.

Date: Saturday, January 28
Kick-off: 15:00
Venue: Kingsholm
Referee: Llyr Apgeraint-Roberts (England)

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