Preview: Ospreys v Cardiff Blues

20th Mar 2014, 12:23

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Return: Cory Allen

Return: Cory Allen

Welsh international Cory Allen returns to the starting line-up for Cardiff Blues as they face the Ospreys in a PRO12 derby on Friday.

Welsh international Cory Allen returns to the starting line-up for Cardiff Blues as they face the Ospreys in a highly-anticipated PRO12 derby on Friday.

Allen has not featured for the Blues since the end of October after picking up a shoulder injury during the November internationals for Wales.

However, the talented rising star is now back to full fitness and is rewarded with a starting spot as Cardiff make a total of seven changes to the side that faced Zebre at the start of the month.

Wales wing Alex Cuthbert returns to the starting line-up, as Dan Fish moves to the full-back slot, while scrum-half Lloyd Williams also makes his comeback as he combines with Gareth Davies.

A new-look front-row will see Gethin Jenkins captain the team at loosehead prop and he will pack down with hooker Rhys Williams and Taufa'ao Filise, with the big Tongan tighthead prop making his first start of the calendar year.

The final change for Blues is the inclusion of back-row Ellis Jenkins at openside flanker.

"It's great to have Gethin Jenkins and Alex Cuthbert back in the starting line-up. Gethin will captain the team and has been great for us this week. Hopefully these guys will come in and give the team a real lift," said attack coach Paul John.

"The target until the end of the season is to perform well and get some wins. We want real positivity and the players to express themselves.

"We are looking forward to going down there and playing in Swansea. It's a cracking stadium and hopefully it will be a big crowd to perform in front of too. It's something to look forward to for all of us as we return to RaboDirect PRO12 action with a big derby day."

Meanwhile, the Ospreys have named Wales internationals Dan Biggar, Alun-Wyn Jones, Rhys Webb and Justin Tipuric in their starting line-up for this eagerly-anticipated derby.

Biggar and Webb are together at half-back while Jones is joined in the second-row by veteran Ryan Jones, with Aaron Jarvis, Scott Baldwin and Duncan Jones up front.

Sam Davies is full-back for the game and there is a first PRO12 start for number eight Dan Baker as head coach Steve Tandy looks ahead to the fixture.

"There's been a buzz around training this week, looking forward to a big Welsh derby match and the start of an important period for us," he said.

"There are six games left, we are sitting in fourth place at the moment and that's where we want to stay. If we are going to achieve that, then we all know we'll need to raise our performance level considerably from where it was in our last game, and that's a challenge for everybody in the group.

"We know there'll be a good crowd at the Liberty on Friday night with all the passion and intensity that a derby match brings on and off the field. These are the games that players and supporters alike look for when the fixtures come out, and this one has added importance for us because we need a good performance, and the win that'll come with that if we get it right."

Form: Ospreys have won their last twelve contests with fellow Welsh regions in the PRO12 and have not lost at home to a Welsh opponent since Newport Gwent Dragons visited Liberty Stadium in October 2010. Cardiff Blues have secured only one victory in their last nine PRO12 fixtures: 21-13 at home to Dragons on New Year's Day. The Blues are one of three sides still without an away win in the PRO12 this season and have not been victorious on their travels since defeating Edinburgh at Murrayfield on 15th February 2013. The Blues last two wins away from home at a fellow Welsh Region in the PRO12 were both against Dragons, in 2010 and 2012. Ospreys have won their last five encounters with the Blues in the PRO12 since their 21-all draw at Liberty Stadium in 2011, the Capital side have however already won at the Ospreys this season, but that victory was in the LV= Cup in November.

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Sam Davies, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Jonathan Spratt, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Aisea Natoga, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Lewis, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Ryan Jones, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Adam Jones, 19 James King, 20 Joe Bearman, 21 Morgan Allen, 22 Tom Habberfield, 23 Hanno Dirksen.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Gareth Davies, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Ellis Jenkins, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Chris Dicomidis, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Rhys Williams, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c).
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Macauley Cook, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Simon Humberstone, 23 Isaia Tuifua.

Date: Friday, March 21
Venue: Liberty Stadium
Kick-off: 19:05 GMT
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wal)
Assistant referees: Ian Davies, Jon Mason (both Wal)
TMO: Dermot Moloney (Ire)