Leinster visit the Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday as Danny Wilson’s men attempt to recover from the embarrassing loss to Treviso last week in Italy. After such an encouraging festive period leading into January, it was a massive shame to take a backwards step against a side that hadn’t won all season.
However, that was last week, and we now must regroup as we continue in our aim to make the top 6. The next four games are massive season defining games, and each one must be played as a Cup Final if we are to class the season as a success. That starts with the visit of high flying Leinster this weekend.
Treviso 13-7 Cardiff: https://cardiffbluesblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/15/treviso-13-7-cardiff/
As far as teams you would choose to go up against at a time like this, Leinster are probably bottom of the list by a distance. We have now not beaten the Dublin side since February 2011 when a Dan Fish try and six Ceri Sweeney penalties gave us an 11-3 victory. It means it’s nine straight losses and a big psychological battle will have to be overcome as we take on a second bogey team in a week.
Leinster are currently third in the Pro12 table, but have come off the back of a disappointing European Cup season where they finished bottom of the pool of death, below Wasps, Toulon and Bath. After a 52-0 battering of Zebre at home last week they won’t be short of any confidence, and being boosted by Irish internationals Ian Madigan and Cian Healy, amongst others, will only help that.
We welcome back an international contingent of our own though, as the squad is revamped following last week’s debacle. Josh Turnbull, Lloyd Williams, Gareth Anscombe and Alex Cuthbert are all into the starting XV, while Tom James is selected on the bench. Whether that is a Warren Gatland directive to give both TJ and Cuthy 40 minutes each remains to be seen, personally I just think Danny Wilson wants to avoid burning James out.
An interesting selection is that of Tomos Williams ahead of Tavis Knoyle as the back-up scrum-half, suggesting Wilson sees young Tomos as a very bright talent. Tau Filise and Matthew Rees are also on the bench, with experience beating out the youth of Ethan and Dillon Lewis. A very strong squad overall though, so no excuse not to be competitive.
Cardiff team vs Leinster: 15 Rhys Patchell, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Blaine Scully, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lloyd Williams (c); 1 Thomas Davies, 2 Kristian Dacey, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 James Down, 6 Josh Turnbull, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 8 Manoa Vosawai
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Bradley Thyer, 18 Taufa’ao Filise, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Tom James, 23 Dan Fish
Cardiff form: WLLLLLLWLLWWLWWLWWL
Leinster form: LWWLWWWLLWLLWWWWLLW
Cardiff top try scorer: Tom James (9)
Leinster top try scorer: Isa Nacewa (6)
Cardiff top points scorer: Rhys Patchell (181)
Leinster top try scorer: Isa Nacewa (60)
Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU) – Another week, another non-neutral referee. The Pro12 just outdoes itself. Fitzgibbon does have a decent record refereeing Cardiff though, with nine wins and just three losses with him in charge, one of the wins coming against Montpellier before Christmas. He did handle a loss to Leinster in February 2013 though. Ten yellow and one red card from 12 games this season so far.