After a week off to ‘welcome’ in the Six Nations, it’s back to Pro12 action for Cardiff this weekend as the team travel out to Italy to take on Treviso. In the middle of a fantastic run it is the perfect time to head out to play a game that is increasingly becoming a bogey encounter for us.
After beating Edinburgh last time out in possibly the worst rugby encounter of all time, we go to play Treviso in the knowledge that a win will see us record five straight league victories for the first time since the end of the 2009/10 season. That run was intertwined in our European Challenge Cup success that season, so fingers crossed this time it will result in a serious challenge to make the top six of the Pro12, a feat that is still possible.
Cardiff 10-3 Edinburgh: https://cardiffbluesblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/03/cardiff-10-3-edinburgh/
It will take a win in Italy to make it to that milestone, and that is something we have found particularly difficult in recent years. We’ve already lost at Zebre this season, and we haven’t beaten Treviso away since a 13-20 win in 2012, when Martyn Williams and Harry Robinson tries were complimented by 10 Dan Parks points. Since then it’s been a loss and a draw before another defeat last year, an extremely embarrassing one at that, as 20 points from Jayden Hayward helped the Italians to a bonus point win.
This year though they’ve been extremely poor and sit stone-dead bottom of the Pro12 with just seven losing bonus points from 13 losses. Add to that no wins in the Champions Cup and as we get to February Treviso are still hunting for their first win of the 2015/16 season. If there was ever a time to end our Italian hoodoo and make it five wins on the bounce, it is on Saturday afternoon.
There is some excellent news on the squad front as Cory Allen and Kristian Dacey are both, somewhat unexpectedly released by Team Wales. I had expected Josh Turnbull and Alex Cuthbert to be the more likely candidates for release, but you won’t see me complaining! Both go straight into the starting XV with Dacey joining Salesi Ma’afu and Tom Davies up front in the on,y change to the pack from the win over Edinburgh.
Allen goes into a much changed back line that sees Rey Lee-Lo revert to inside centre alongside him. Jarrod Evans returns from Wales U20 duty to partner Tavis Knoyle at half-back, with Rhys Patchell stepping to full-back, and pushing Dan Fish out to the wing. Blaine Scully keeps his place after returning from Houston where he captained USA to a draw with Argentina.
Aled Summerhill and Garyn Smith are both named on the bench, with Patchell able to cover outside half, while Ethan Lewis and Brad Thyer keep their places as front row cover, joined by Tau Filise. Lou Reed’s inclusion sees Macauley Cook used as back row cover this time round.
A perfectly balanced looking team of big and powerful up front, complimented by quick and exciting attackers behind. Just what you need for a potential banana skin of a trip to Italy. On paper it is an easy bonus point win for Cardiff, but of course things are never that simple. However, if we focus on doing the basics right early on and get points on the board, then we can relax and play our game with freedom. The crucial element will be 100% concentration. Come on Cardiff!!
Treviso form: LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
Cardiff form: WLLLLLLWLLWWLWWLWW
Treviso top try scorer: Sam Christie (4)
Cardiff top try scorer: Tom James (9)
Treviso top points scorer: Jayden Hayward (103)
Cardiff top points scorer: Rhys Patchell (179)
Dudley Phillips (IRFU) – The Irish referee will officiate in his 54th competition game out in Italy, and his 12th in all competitions this season. Having already handed out 14 yellow cards, it might be worth getting in Phillips’ good books early on! He is a decent omen for Cardiff though, having refereed us to six wins and just two losses, including three in the last three games he refereed us. Add to that the six away wins to five home he’s presided over this season and things are looking up.