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Cardiff Blues

Preview: Cardiff Blues v Ospreys

19th December 2013 10:55

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Andries Pretorius

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Andries Pretorius returns to Cardiff Blues' starting line-up as they face the Ospreys in a RaboDirect PRO12 Welsh derby at the Arms Park on Friday.

Pretorius is one of four changes for the Blues as director of rugby Phil Davies looks to build on the Heineken Cup double win over Glasgow Warriors.

Centre Dafydd Hewitt is also handed a recall, with Rhys Patchell missing the game through injury, while the return of Pretorius sees Macauley Cook move to the second-row to partner Filo Paulo.

Prop Benoit Bourrust is named alongside hooker Kristian Dacey and skipper Sam Hobbs.

Rhys Williams, Scott Andrews, Josh Navidi and Gavin Evans are all amongst the replacements.

"We face an Ospreys side that is packed full of international talent and who have impressed this season to currently lie in fifth place in the table, just two points off a play-off berth," said Davies.

"They also secured a big European scalp last week against Castres so will arrive full of confidence. We need to be ready to meet that challenge.

"We are looking to build and improve on the form that has seen us secure some important results over the last two months," he added.

"We are under no illusions as to the size of the task that awaits us, but it's an exciting way to finish 2013 at the Arms Park."

Meanwhile, the Ospreys are without hooker Richard Hibbard, second-row Ian Evans and centre duo Andrew Bishop and Ashley Beck for their return to RaboDirect PRO12 duty.

The visitors enter the derby clash on a back of a Heineken Cup victory over Castres, with head coach Steve Tandy bracing himself for a busy period in the Welsh region's calender.

"This is the first game of a busy five weeks with three big derbies followed by the final two rounds of the Heineken Cup. Christmas is a great time for rugby, with fans to come together with family and friends to watch the game," he said.

"It's about the tradition and the rivalry and it's fantastic for regional rugby in Wales that we are going to have a series of games with big crowds and great atmospheres.

"We are looking to build some momentum after showing some good signs in the games against Castres, where we started to see the boys taking what we've been doing in training onto the pitch. The win last weekend was a great result for everybody involved with the region, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. The boys have worked hard in training this week, striving to continue improving, in preparation for what will be a busy period.

"It's important that we are at our best in Cardiff in front of a big and passionate crowd. We know there'll be a large travelling support there from Ospreylia, enjoying the rivalry, and we want them to be proud of what this group is doing."

Form: Cardiff Blues' only defeat in their last five games in all tournaments was 10-31 at home to Munster in the RaboDirect PRO12 on 23rd November. The Blues have not beaten a fellow Welsh Region, excepting The Dragons, since Ospreys visited the Cardiff City Stadium on New Year's Eve 2010. Ospreys have won just two of their last five PRO12 encounters, at home to both Dragons and Zebre. Ospreys have been defeated in their last four away games in all competitions since they visited Connacht in the PRO12, on 28th September. Ospreys have won their last nine PRO12 fixtures against fellow Welsh Regions since losing 20-21 to the Dragons at Rodney Parade on 6th January 2012. The Blues have already defeated Ospreys this season in the Anglo-Welsh Cup at Liberty Stadium, but in the PRO12 have not won against their rivals since 31st December 2010.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Richard Smith, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Gareth Davies, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Rory Watts-Jones, 6 Andries Pretorius, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Macauley Cook, 3 Benoit Bourrust, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Sam Hobbs (c).
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 James Down, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Gavin Evans, 23 Chris Czekaj.

Ospreys: 15 Sam Davies, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Tom Isaacs, 12 Ben John, 11 Aisea Natoga, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tom Habberfield, 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Lewis, 5 James King, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 3 Adam Jones, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Ryan Bevington.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dwyer, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Dan Suter, 19 Morgan Allen, 20 Tyler Ardron, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Ashley Beck, 23 Jeff Hassler.

Date: Friday, December 20
Kick-off: 19:05 GMT
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Rhys Thomas (Wales), Sean Brickell (Wales)
Television match official: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)

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Group B
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PosTeamPPts
1Northampton29
2Cardiff Blues28
3Sale Sharks25
4London Irish21