After missing out on the Challenge Cup quarter-finals last week, despite one-and-a-half excellent performances over the last two weeks, it’s back to the Pro12 this week with the knowledge this is now our sole focus for the rest of the season. With 11 games left, seven of which are at the Arms Park, it is a great opportunity to close the nine point gap between ourselves and Ulster in sixth place.
Edinburgh arrive in Cardiff currently lying third in the Pro12, but also having been knocked out of European competition at the weekend by a 34-23 loss in Grenoble. That was their first loss in six games and with the squad missing most of their Scottish internationals, including top points scorer Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, alongside top try scorer Damien Hoyland being injured, there is a chance for us on Saturday.
We are also boosted by our record against the Scottish capital side as we currently have 17 wins to their 12 across our 29 encounters since 2003, and have not lost at home to them since September 2012. Along with our current form I do make us favourites for Saturday, as we’ve won our last three league games and only lost twice in our last seven in all competitions, those coming in trips to Harlequins and Montpellier when we were only just beaten.
Obviously in the last few weeks we’ve been treated to some exciting rugby from our international side, but now the Six Nations is upon us and Team Wales has called, the club rugby season has been disrupted and we look to our squad and foreign players. Danny Wilson has talked about carrying the momentum from the last few weeks into these next ones and that is crucial. The speed we played with and the passion shown is key, and I do trust the players we will have in the side for the next few weeks to get us the results needed.
With all nine of the Welsh players missing, Danny Wilson has obviously been forced into a number of changes. Tavis Knoyle and Rhys Patchell start at half-back, with Gavin Evans and Rey Lee Lo re-forming their 12/13 partnership outside them, and Aled Summerhill and Blaine Scully joining Dan Fish in the back three. Meanwhile in front of them, Manoa Vosawai, Ellis Jenkins and Josh Navidi form a very strong back row, behind first choice locks James Down and Jarrad Hoeata. The best news of the team though is Salesi Ma’afu making his debut at tight head, alongside Matthew Rees and Thomas Davies in the front row.
Equally good news comes from the bench as, joining the experience of Macauley Cook and Jevon Groves, are academy players Brad Thyer, Ethan Lewis, Dillon Lewis, Tomos Williams, Jarrod Evans and Elis-Wyn Benham. With Thyer and Benham called up for the first time on the back of impressive British and Irish Cup perfomances, and Benham joining Dillon and Jarrod in the Wales U20s set-up it is another boost for the academy system at the club.
For the first time in a few years we have a very strong looking Six Nations side, which will only improve next season again. Meanwhile, with the young players being trusted on the bench rather than any no-hope squad fillers or semi-pro club players, the future is looking very bright. Fingers crossed a good performance will kick off a successful Six Nations period and put us right in contention for the top six, come on Cardiff!!
Cardiff record v Edinburgh: W 17 D 0 L 12
Cardiff form: WLLLLLLWLLWWLWWLW
Edinburgh form: WWWWLLWWWWLLWWWWWL
Cardiff top try scorer: Tom James (9)
Edinburgh top try scorer: Damien Hoyland (5)
Cardiff top points scorer: Rhys Patchell (174)
Edinburgh top points scorer: Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (89)
David Wilkinson (IRFU) – In his ninth year as a Pro12 referee, Wilkinson is making his 38th league appearance. With eight games across the Pro12 and Challenge Cup with nine yellow cards handed out expect some sin bin action. He did referee our loss at Zebre this season, but is making his first appearance at CAP since November 2013 when we lost 10-31 to Munster. He also refereed our last home loss to Edinburgh the season before that, and has never officiated in a home win for Cardiff.