Preview: Montpellier v Cardiff

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Only a few days after the elation of that home win and the focus shifts to the even bigger task of repeating that performance in France. The short turnaround isn’t ideal, but the momentum that could be generated with another strong showing this week could set the tone for the Christmas period.

I shouldn’t really have to remind you about last Friday, because if you’re like me you’ve been reliving those five tries over and over ever since. But, if you have been living under a rock, then have a read about we sprung a surprise on Montpellier below. Whether the French team will have been knocked, or if they are determined to get revenge, will be seen on Thursday night.

Cardiff 37-27 Montpellier:  https://cardiffbluesblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/15/cardiff-37-27-montpellier/

In the other pool four game from last weekend Harlequins put 50 points on Calvisano, and you’d expect them to come out of the return encounter at the Stoop with maximum points again, meaning if we want to keep in touch with them, we’ll have to win. In perhaps more realistic terms, to stay in the driving seat to take second place we need to stop Montpellier getting the try bonus, and get us a losing bonus point at the least.

Rhys Patchell Montpellier
Rhys Patchell scored in under a minute last week

 

Away from our games, Montpellier have a slight advantage in the bank balance department, meaning they could sign South African quartet Pierre Spies, Jannie and Bismarck Du Plessis, and CJ Van Der Linde after the World Cup. This hasn’t necessarily equated to success though, as they’ve only won once in their last four league games since the World Cup, the most recent loss last week, 34-19 at Castres,  when before that they’d only lost once in the previous six. That up and down form leaves them 7th in the Top14, right in mid-table. It’s a similarly inconsistent story in the Challenge Cup as a first round heavy loss to Harlequins, 41-18 at The Stoop, was followed by a 64-0 thrashing of Calvisano at home, before obviously losing last week.

We’ve only encountered the French side twice before last week, when we were drawn in the same Heineken Cup pool back in 2012/13. It was the December double header where we clashed that time as well, Montpellier doing the double over us as we went down 24-35 at CAP, and 34-21 in France. The good news is that a few players who survive from those games have form against Les Cistes, Patchell kicking all the points in the home game, before Sam Warburton and Alex Cuthbert scored tries away. Although Lloyd Williams didn’t have a fantastic time as he was sent-off at CAP.

Lloyd Williams RC Montpellier
Lloyd Williams sees red in 2012

 

Danny Wilson has made five changes to the team that won last week, with only three of them for any good reason. The first of those is Garyn Smith replacing the injured Gavin Evans, with Rey Lee Lo moving to 12, which I have to say I can’t wait to see. In the front row Gethin Jenkins returns from his rest in place of Sam Hobbs. The other just about acceptable change is the fit-again Manoa Vosawai coming back. That’s fine, but I would’ve dropped Macauley Cook instead of Josh Turnbull.

Then, for no reason at all, Lloyd Williams is out for Tavis Knoyle. Now I like Knoyle, but Lloyd has been on fire since coming back from the World Cup, so a slightly odd one. Finally, Lou Reed replaces James Down. I hate Lou Reed. I wouldn’t even pick him for Cardiff RFC. A rubbish decision from Wilson, and I don’t like criticising him.

Cardiff team v Montpellier: 15 Rhys Patchell, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Tom James, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Tavis Knoyle; 1 Gethin Jenkins (c), 2 Kristian Dacey, 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Lou Reed, 6 Macauley Cook, 7 Josh Navidi, 8 Manoa Vosawai

Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 James Down, 20 Josh Turnbull, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Tom Isaacs, 23 Blaine Scully

Knoyle Munster
Tavis Knoyle scoring against Munster

 

Maybe Wilson is saying he’s not trying to take the Challenge Cup so seriously and has an eye on the Christmas Welsh derby games, but with Newport a whole ten days away after Thursday there’s more than enough time to recover.

Anyway, minus Lou Reed, it’s still a team that can cause big problems to Montpellier. If we play like last week, keep up the 100% effort and back ourselves, there’s no reason why we can’t steal some points there. Hope any Cardiff fans heading out have a good trip, I’m quite jealous to say the least. Come on Cardiff!!

Stats

Cardiff record v Montpellier: W 1  L 2  D 0

Cardiff form: WLLLLLLWLLWW

Montpellier form: WLWWWWLLLWWLL

Cardiff top try scorers: Tom James and Josh Navidi (5)

Montpellier top try scorer: Timoci Nagusa (6)

Cardiff top points scorer: Rhys Patchell (132)

Montpellier top points scorer: Benoit Paillaugue (85)

Referee Watch

Ian Tempest (RFU) – The teaching assistant and Aviva Premiership referee is taking charge of his first European game since our 104-12 thrashing of Rovigo last season. Only three AP games this season, and two red cards already!

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