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Preview: Cardiff Blues v Dragons

31st December 2013 09:07

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Harry Robinson and Richard Smith return to the starting side as Cardiff Blues launch 2014 with a home clash against the Dragons on Wednesday.

Director of Rugby Phil Davies makes a total of five changes to the XV from the side that lost 22-16 in the PRO12 game between the pair last week.

Smith returns at outside centre while Robinson comes back on to the wing as Blues look to return to winning ways in the league competition.

Hooker Marc Breeze starts the game, with Kristian Dacey ruled out through injury, while Macauley Cook moves to lock to partner Filo Paulo.

The final changes sees Rory Watts-Jones named at blindside flanker to join Josh Navidi and Robin Copeland in the back row at the Arms Park.

Gethin Jenkins returns among the replacements while hooker Rhys Williams will play his 50th game for the region if he comes off the bench.

"We played with real endeavour and physicality at Rodney Parade, but were obviously disappointed by the result in Newport," said Davies.

"However, the nature of Dominos Derby Series is that we face each other again almost immediately and have a chance to make amends.

"There will be a huge fired crowd at the Arms Park and I'm sure the atmosphere will be absolutely electric as we look to kick-off 2014 with an important result and move up the RaboDirect PRO12 table."

Meanwhile, second-row Rob Sidoli will take on the role of skipper for the sixth time this season as Welsh international Andrew Coombs is out of the line-up with a knee injury.

Sidoli has won three of his last encounters as captain and will be looking for another win as he leads the team out against the Blues. He will stand alongside three other changes to the starting XV, from the side that faced the Blues on Boxing Day at Rodney Parade.

Full-back Daniel Evans retains his place in the back five alongside winger Will Harries. Matthew Pewtner steps into the position of blindside wing as Hallam Amos is out of selection after sustaining a foot injury last week. The centre paring of Pat Leach and Ashley Smith will remain the same as well as Jason Tovey and Wayne Evans who also get the nod to remain in their half-back positions.

Prop Owen Evans and hooker T.Rhys Thomas keep their positions from last week, but are joined in the front-row by Dan Way. Rob Sidoli and ex Cardiff Blues player Matthew Screech have been called up into the second-row and the back-row takes on the familiar form of Netani Talei, Lewis Evans and last week's Man of the Match Toby Faletau.

There has only been one change to the bench with Adam Jones stepping in at number 19. Sam Parry, Aaron Coundley, Francisco Chaparro, Nic Cudd, Richie Rees, Steffan Jones and Ross Wardle all remain in the same positions as the last game.

Form: Cardiff Blues have not won in the RaboDirect PRO12 since Treviso visited the Arms Park in Round 7. The Blues only victory in their last four home matches in all tournaments was 29-20 over Glasgow Warriors in the European Cup on December 6. The Blues have lost their last four matches against fellow Welsh regions in the PRO12. Dragons rose from eighth place to sixth in the PRO12 table with their 22-16 home win over the Blues on Boxing Day. Dragons only win in their last 11 away games in all competitions since February was 23-8 at Glasgow in the PRO12 on November 22. The Men from Gwent have not beaten a fellow Welsh region on their own soil since a trip to Swansea to face Ospreys on October 30, 2010. Dragons have not achieved a season's double against The Blues since the first season of regional rugby a decade ago.

The teams:

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

Dragons: 15 Daniel Evans, 14 Will Harries, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Matthew Pewtner, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Wayne Evans, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Lewis Evans, 6 Netani Talei, 5 Rob Sidoli (c), 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Dan Way, 2 T.Rhys Thomas, 1 Owen Evans.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Aaron Coundley, 18 Francisco Chaparro, 19 Adam Jones, 20 Nic Cudd, 21 Richie Rees, 22 Steffan Jones, 23 Ross Wardle.

Date: Wednesday, January 1
Kick-off: 14:05 GMT
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: Neil Hennessy (Wales), Gwyn Morris (Wales)
Television match official: Paul Adams (Wales)

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