Planet Rugby

Preview: Cardiff Blues v Connacht

12th September 2013 12:22

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Alex Cuthbert scoring for Cardiff Blues

Starts: Alex Cuthbert

Andries Pretorius and Lloyd Williams will both hit milestones when Cardiff Blues tackle Connacht in the PRO12 this Friday at the Arms Park.

The forward and back will both make their 50th appearance for the region as the Blues play a first-ever league game on their artificial surface.

Pretorius is one of three changes to the side that narrowly lost out to Glasgow Warriors in the opening round of action at Scotstoun Stadium.

The talismanic Wales forward, who made his international debut on tour to Japan, is named alongside Josh Navidi and Robin Copeland.

British and Irish Lions star Alex Cuthbert will make his first appearance of the season while Dafydd Hewitt is called up to play at inside centre.

Lou Reed and Kristian Dacey are both named among the replacements and could make their first appearances of the league season.

Director of rugby Phil Davies admitted his side were fired-up for the first league game at the Arms Park this season against a talented Connacht outfit.

"We are coming up against a very good team in Connacht and they have brought in some very talented players during the summer," he said.

"Pat Lam has taken over the coaching so I think there will be a slightly different emphasis in terms of the style of rugby they adopt. It will be a big challenge and we've got to perform well.

He added: "Our ambition this season will be to put on a spectacle every time we play at the Arms Park and use the new surface to our advantage.

"We are trying to play an expansive style of rugby, but we also know we need to be effective with all facets of our game.

"What we must do is develop an all-round game that suits each and every occasion that we face. No matter what surface you play on, it's about having that balance in your game and being to execute it."

Meanwhile, Connacht head coach Pat Lam has made two personnel changes to the side that beat Zebre 25-16 last weekend. Gavin Duffy returns to the fray for his first competitive game of the season. Duffy is named at full-back while Robbie Henshaw moves to centre.

Tiernan O'Halloran who came on from the bench last Saturday starts on the right wing while Danie Poolman is named amongst the replacements.

The pack remains unchanged with Michael Swift captaining the side on their first away trip of the season.

Form: Cardiff Blues gained a losing bonus point during their defeat in Glasgow on Friday night but have still only won one of their last eight RaboDirect PRO12 encounters. The Welshmen have not lost their opening two games in the tournament since season 2009/10. Connacht beat Zebre 25-16 at the Sportsground in round 1 and have been defeated just once on the road in their last four trips: 0-22 at Munster in March. Con nacht have won three of their last four encounters with Welsh regions. The Irishmen have beaten the Blues in just three of their twenty previous meetings in the tournament, but one of those was in this equivalent fixture at the Arms Park in February.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Tom Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Owen Williams, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Andries Pretorius, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Matthew Rees (capt), 1 Taufa'ao Filise.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Benoit Bourrust, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Macauley Cook, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Gavin Evans.

Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy, 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Eoin Griffin, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 George Naoupu, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 John Muldoon, 5 Andrew Browne, 4 Michael Swift (capt), 3 Nathan White, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Sean Henry, 17 Rodney Ah You, 18 Ronan Loughney, 19 Aly Muldowney, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Craig Ronaldson, 23 Danie Poolman.

Date: Friday, September 13
Kick-off: 19:05
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park
Referee: Claudio Blessano (Italy)
Assistant referees: Simon Rees (Wales), Martyn Lewis (Wales)
Television match official: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)

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