Following the gruelling back-to-back games with Montpellier it’s a return to Pro12 games this weekend and there’s no let-up to the tough games. The festive period always throws up a serving of Welsh derbies, and this year we face Scarlets on New Year’s Day at home, but first up is a trip to Rodney Parade to take on Newport.
Those matches against Montpellier will hopefully bring some much needed momentum into the league as a fantastic home win followed by a really cruel away loss should give the squad a huge boost. The confidence really must be flowing as the defence put in a massive shift and kept the French team at bay for 39 minutes of a second half barrage away from home, and the attack seems to be clicking and able to go through phases much easier.
And a harsh loss away: https://cardiffbluesblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/20/montpellier-23-22-cardiff/
However, as we all know, form goes straight out of the window in derby games, the only thing to carry to Newport is the passion and commitment shown over the last few weeks. There’s no real form to look at from last season’s meetings, when we faced off three times courtesy of a European quarter-final. After a home loss on Boxing Day, we won at Rodney Parade on New Year’s Day, and then lost the Challenge Cup game, although we were big-time struggling with injuries forcing Tavis Knoyle to start at centre.
Newport have had a similarly disappointing season to Cardiff, with only three league wins before an impressive home win over Munster and a double win over Conrad Smith’s French team Pau. Like a lot of recent Dragons teams they have a young talented side, the difference now is the National Dual contracts keeping them at the club. However, even that isn’t enough to keep star man Toby Faletau in Newport as he will be moving to Bath next summer, and isn’t in the squad this week.
Danny Wilson has made three changes to the team that started the Montpellier away game, and actually, I think for the first time in about two years, I struggle to argue with any of the starting line-up. Lloyd Williams returns to scrum-half, while Josh Turnbull does the same at blindside, replacing Tavis Knoyle and Macauley Cook, while James Down starts ahead of the supposedly injured Jarrad Hoeata who doesn’t even make the bench. The big team news is that Cory Allen returns to the bench as he looks to make his comeback from the leg injury suffered against Uruguay in the first World Cup game.
Cardiff team v Newport: 15 Rhys Patchell, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Tom James, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams; 1 Gethin Jenkins (c), 2 Kristian Dacey, 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 4 Lou Reed, 5 James Down, 6 Josh Turnbull, 7 Josh Navidi, 8 Manoa Vosawai
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Cam Dolan, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Cory Allen, 23 Dan Fish
So a very strong starting XV with options off the bench, some good form, players willing to put their bodies on the line, and a massive Welsh derby. It’s got everything we need for the win, we just need to perform on the day, something that does let us down on occasion. However, this is the Danny Wilson revolution, and anything is possible, come on Cardiff!!
Cardiff record v Newport: W 16 D 0 L 9
Newport form: LWLLWLLWLLWWW
Cardiff form: WLLLLLLWLLWWL
Newport top try scorer: Sarel Pretorius (4)
Cardiff top try scorers: Tom James, Josh Navidi (5)
Newport top points scorers: Dorian Jones, Jason Tovey (74)
Cardiff top points scorer: Rhys Patchell (143)
Ian Davies (WRU) – The ugly step-brother to Nigel Owens in the world of Welsh refereeing, but has improved in the last two seasons or so. Refereed the Munster away game where we lost and Jevon Groves was sent to the bin late on. Refereed the big West Country derby, Gloucester v Worcester last week.