Preview: Cardiff Blues v Dragons

Date published: December 24 2014

Sam Hobbs will make his 100th appearance for the region as Cardiff Blues tackle the Dragons in a huge PRO12 derby encounter on Boxing Day.

Hobbs will hit the major milestone and become a centurion for the Blues as Director of Rugby Mark Hammett makes a number of changes to his starting line-up as he looks to manage and utilise his squad over the busy festive and New Year period.

A total of six new faces come into the starting line-up that went on to defeat Scarlets in the first derby encounter of the Christmas period, with hooker Matthew Rees returning to captain the side from the front row.

Former New Zealand international Jarrad Hoeata is declared fit to be named in the second row, where he will partner Lou Reed, while Ellis Jenkins is called in to wear the seven jersey with Sam Warburton ruled out with injury.

Gareth Davies starts the game at fly half, where he will link up with Lewis Jones at half back, and the final change sees a recall for Gavin Evans at inside centre.

“We have to manage the squad and I’m looking at the two Dragons games together; it’s important we do. Whoever goes out on the field for us has the responsibility to win these matches and perform,” said Hammett.

“We are aiming to secure wins while managing the group to get as much excitement on the park at one time.

“All games are crucial, we always prepare to win and we are looking forward to his derby in front of a big crowd at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park.”

Meanwhile, Wales age-grade international Tyler Morgan returns to the Dragons’ starting XV to face their closest rivals.

The young gun makes his return on Boxing Day as the Dragons continue their quest to remain unbeaten for the month of December.

19-year-old Morgan, who will partner up with Jack Dixon in the centre, is the only change to the team that beat Zebre in the Guinness PRO12 last weekend.

“I can feel the vibe already in the squad and coaches. We had a derby against the Ospreys and it was good so I can imagine the passion with the festive spirit taking it over the top,” said skipper Rynard Landman.

“I am excited about experiencing that for the first time. Kingsley (Jones) has told me that it’s going to be fast and a bit like Super Rugby.

“The Blues had a good win against the Scarlets and are above us in the league at the moment so the next two games are vital for the region so that we can climb the table and get our campaign back on track.”

The replacements bench sees three changes made to it as Welsh international Ian Gough has been deemed fit to join the replacements bench as well as Dan Way and Geraint Rhys Jones. These all join Elliot Dee, Owen Evans, Cory Hill, Richie Rees and Dorian Jones.

Form: Cardiff Blues have lost just one of their last four matches in all competitions: 23-34 at London Irish in the Challenge Cup on 13th December. The Blues have won their last four fixtures at Arms Park since losing there to Munster in the Pro12 on 1st November. Blues have not lost at home to a fellow Welsh Region since Ospreys visited the Arms Park 20th December 2013. Newport Gwent Dragons have won their last three matches in all competitions since their 15-19 reversal to Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun in Round 9 of the Pro12.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Lucas Amorosino, 10 Gareth Davies, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Josh Navidi, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Lou Reed, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Matthew Rees (c), 1 Sam Hobbs.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Taufa’ao Filise, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Adam Thomas.

Dragons: 15 Tom Prydie, 14 Matthew Pewtner, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Lewis Evans, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 James Thomas, 5 Rynard Landman (c), 4 Andrew Coombs, 3 Brok Harris, 2 T. Rhys Thomas, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Dan Way, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Ian Gough, 21 Richie Rees, 22 Dorian Jones, 23 Geraint Rhys Jones.

Date: Friday, December 26
Venue: Arms Park
Kick-off: 14:05 GMT
Referee: Leighton Hodges
Assistant Referees: Rhys Thomas, Craig Evans
TMO: Gareth Simmonds