Preview: Cardiff Blues v Edinburgh

Date published: January 29 2016

Prop Salesi Ma'afu will make his Cardiff Blues debut in the PRO12 home clash against Edinburgh at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday.

The Australian international is named in the starting line-up as Head Coach Danny Wilson makes ten changes to the side that defeated Rugby Calvisano last week in Europe.

A new-look front row will see Thomas Davies start his first Guinness PRO12 game of the season alongside hooker Matthew Rees, who captains the team, and tighthead Ma'afu.

Lock James Down returns to the second row while Ellis Jenkins and Manoa Vosawai win back row call-ups.
Centre Rey Lee-Lo is back in the starting line-up and paired with Gavin Evans in mid-field.

USA international Blaine Scully and Aled Summerhill will provide the fire-power out wide while fly-half Rhys Patchell is the final change to the side.

Wales U20 wing speedster Elis-Wyn Benham, fresh from three tries in two games in the British & Irish Cup, could make his senior regional debut after being named among the replacements.

Prop Brad Thyer could also make his PRO12 debut from the bench where scrum-half Tomos Williams also wins a place.

Nine players miss the game as they are away on international duty with Wales while Sam Hobbs (concussion) and Lou Reed (foot) are also ruled out through injury.

Head Coach Danny Wilson said: "We have spoken to the players this week about the challenge ahead of us as we look to build on the momentum of the last two months.

"At home we're making BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park a difficult place to visit, with just one defeat in the PRO12. That is a record we 
must build on with seven home games left. It is up to this group to show what they are capable of to maintain that.

"With nine players away with Wales, it's imperative that other players within the squad take the opportunity to step up. We've trained well this week and have been encouraged by the positivity and enthusiasm in the camp.

"There are a number of changes to the starting line-up, among them a debut for Salesi Ma'afu, and we look forward to seeing what we can produce back in PRO12 action."

Meanwhile, Edinburgh have made  eleven changes to the starting XV thart  lost to Grenoble in the final Challenge Cup pool round last Saturday.

Joining for the journey are Cornell Du Preez and Neil Cochrane, whose contract extensions with the club were announced on Friday.

In the backs Greig Tonks at 15, centre Michael Allen and loose forward Phil Burleigh retain their places for this weekend’s match with Andries Strauss moving up to partner Allen.

Tom Brown returns from injury to take the 11 jersey with Dougie Fife promoted from the bench to the right wing. Scrum-half Nathan Fowles, among the replacements last week, moves up to complete the half-back partnership with Burleigh.

In the pack only Du Preez retains his starting spot, at number eight, in a new-look back row with openside Hamish Watson moving up from the bench and Jamie Ritchie coming in at blindside.

Captain Mike Coman moves to lock partnering Alex Toolis, promoted from the substitutes, in the second row. A reworked front row sees Neil Cochrane start at hooker with Rory Sutherland and John Andress coming in at loosehead and tighthead respectively.

Head coach Alan Solomons said: “With Six Nations commitments and a heavy injury toll, Saturday presents both a challenge and an opportunity for the chosen team.

“We will have to be at our best to come away with a result.”

Edinburgh currently sit third in the  PRO12 table, as the league gets set to take a short break next week with the kick-off of the Six Nations Championship. With five tries, Damien Hoyland tops the league try table while Saturday’s opponents, on 31, are currently the top try-scoring team.

Form: Cardiff Blues are the top try scoring team in the PRO12, having run in 31 tries this campaign. The Blues have won their last four fixtures at Arms Park since their 20-32 reversal there to Harlequins in the Challenge Cup. Edinburgh's five game winning run came to a halt with their defeat in Grenoble on Saturday evening. The Scotsmen have won both of the matches they have played against Welsh regions so far this season. Edinburgh's only victory in their last five encounters with Blues was 28-13 at Murrayfield in November 2014 whilst they have not been successful on Cardiff soil since September 2012.

The teams: 

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Manoa Vosawai, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Ellis Jenkins, 5 James Down, 4 Jarrad Hoeata,3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Matthew Rees (c), 1 Thomas Davies
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Bradley Thyer, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Jevon Groves, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Elis-Wyn Benham

Edinburgh: 15 Greig Tonks,14 Dougie Fife, 13 Michael Allen, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Phil Burleigh, 9 Nathan Fowles, 8 Cornell Du Preez, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Mike Coman (c), 4 Alex Toolis, 3 John Andress, 2 Neil Cochrane, 1 Rory Sutherland
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Magnus Bradbury, 20 George Turner, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Will Helu, 23 Blair Kinghorn

Date: Saturday, January 30
Venue: Arms Park
Kick-off: 17:15 GMT
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Ian Davies (Wales), Martyn Lewis (Wales)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)