Cardiff Blues return to the Arms Park for the first time in two months on Saturday as they bid to kick start their season following a torrid time on the road. With the plastic CAP pitch being transformed into a Rugby World Cup fan zone, Cardiff have been forced to play all four Irish provinces, and Zebre, away in the last few weeks and with five losses from five, it’s not gone well.
The Irish Tour nightmare: https://cardiffbluesblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/30/an-ireland-tour-the-review/
And the Italian disaster: https://cardiffbluesblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/03/zebre-26-15-cardiff/
So it’s back home and the start of an attempt to make CAP a fortress. The first opponent to that couldn’t be much harder really, as reigning Guinness Pro12 champions Glasgow Warriors come to town. Having said that, the Scottish side have had a somewhat indifferent start to their season. Three losses to Scarlets, Munster and Leinster have come either side of wins over Newport, Connacht and last weekend over Ospreys by 31 points to 19. They currently lie 7th in the Pro12 table, but are slowly welcoming back their Scottish World Cup contingent, that numbered 17 of the 31 man squad, including newly named captain Jonny Gray. It will be a tough test if their victory over the Ospreys last week is anything to go by.
To emphasisise how tough it will be, and how strong Glasgow have become over recent years, Cardiff haven’t beaten the Warriors in the league since the 2010/11 season when we did the double over them, although we have beaten them twice in the Heineken Cup during that period. You have to go back to February 2011 for the last Cardiff Pro12 victory over Glasgow, courtesy of a Tom James try and seven Ceri Sweeney penalties, in a team that also featured props Tau Filise and Scott Andrews alongside Gavin Evans and Dan Fish, while Sam Hobbs was an usused substitute. Despite this barren period, Glasgow are only slightly ahead by 14 wins to 12 in the overall head-to-head.
Like their opposition this weekend, Cardiff are also welcoming back their full compliment of World Cup stars, as Gethin Jenkins, Sam Warburton and Alex Cuthbert return to the squad having trained fully with the rest of the team this week. They come into the side for Sam Hobbs, the injured Josh Navidi and Blaine Scully, who all drop to the bench. Returning too is Rey Lee-Lo, after the Samoan missed out on last week’s loss to Zebre due to ‘personal reasons’, who replaces Adam Thomas at centre.
The other changes to the team from Italy last week come in the shape of Kristian Dacey for Matthew Rees up front, Lloyd Williams for Tavis Knoyle at scrum half, and the returning Gavin Evans for Tommy Isaacs, who drops to the bench. Joining Isaacs there are two Jarod/Jarrads, as Hoeata returns from injury, and Evans is still in line for a Pro12 bow following a strong A side performance in midweek.
A very strong team named by Danny Wilson leaves no excuses on Saturday. A team jam packed full of international experience and of top class Pro12 players. A team that really should be up there at the top of the league challenging and the same in Europe. A bit of confidence, a bit of luck and a big bit of support from the fans is all we need. Come on Cardiff!
Cardiff record vs Glasgow: Won 12 Lost 14
Cardiff form: WLLLLL Glasgow form: LWLWLW
Cardiff top points scorer: Rhys Patchell (70)
Cardiff top try scorer: Josh Turnbull (4)
Glasgow top points scorer: Rory Clegg (48)
Glasgow top try scorer: Zander Fagerson (2)
Marius Mitrea (FIR) – Fresh from World Cup assistant referee duty, the best Italian referee makes his 43rd competition appearance. Nice to have a neutral official for a change!