Judgement Day IV is upon us and we have yet another ‘Cup Final’ type game in the race for sixth place in the Pro12 and a spot in next season’s European Champions Cup. We are now at the point where any loss would mean game over effectively for us in that battle and up against the Ospreys on Saturday in the Milennium Stadium it will be the toughest game yet.
All the statistics are stacked against us as we head into the weekend with no wins against the Ospreys in nine games meaning you have to go back to the 2010/11 season for our last victory over the Jacks. That day it was a tight 27-25 win at Cardiff City Stadium with Tom James getting a try, let’s hope for something similar on Saturday! Our most recent loss came in the middle of our miserable early season losing run and saw us go down 13-6 at the Liberty Stadium. A much improved performance in dreadful conditions that day though.
If there was ever a chance for a win over the Ospreys to avoid 10 straight losses then this is it really. The O’s are having a fairly disappointing season by their standards currently sitting 9th in the Pro12 and knocked out of the Champions Cup Pool Stages on head-to-head performances. In all fairness they have been seriously affected by call-ups to Team Wales during both the World Cup and Six Nations, alongside large injuries problems, but they moan so much about everything I’m not really going to consider that.
While the Ospreys have been struggling we’ve kind of been going the other way. Once again we find ourselves a win away from five in a row for the first time since 2009/10, and right on the brink of Champions Cup rugby with just a few results left to go our way. Our main sixth place rivals play each other on Friday night as Munster and Edinburgh face off, with a Scottish win resulting in a straight shoot out between us and them next week to finish the season. A more likely Irish win would mean we’d have to beat Edinburgh and hope Llanelli do us a favour in Limerick. On the flip side, Llanelli losing to Newport after our game at Judgement Day and then to Munster would also be handy.
Whatever way you look at it we have to win both of our remaining games starting at the Millennium on Saturday. It won’t be easy though with Rhys Patchell and Lloyd Williams ruled out through injuries picked up against Newport. Two extremely key players over the last few weeks right from the spine of the team. They are replaced with Aled Summerhill, Dan Fish moves to full-back, and Lewis Jones, but with respect to both they are not quite on the same level. It will take special performances from the remaining internationals, Gareth Anscombe, Rey Lee-Lo and Tom James, to drive the team forwards.
As well as those two enforced changes we also see three tactical moves up front. Firstly Matthew Rees and Kristian Dacey have a straight swap, with Smiler’s scrummaging and experience seemingly preferred over Dacey’s open play ability. That loss in midfield play is counteracted by the return of Josh Navidi though as Josh Turnbull switches back to lock and Jarrad Hoeata makes way. Danny Wilson clearly looking to beef up the front row and balance that out with a mobile back row. In what is sure to be an expansive game that’s not a bad idea at all.
Cardiff team vs Ospreys: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Aled Summerhill, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Tom James, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lewis Jones; 1 Gethin Jenkins (c), 2 Matthew Rees, 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 4 Josh Turnbull, 5 James Down, 6 Sam Warburton, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 8 Josh Navidi
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Jarrad Hoeata, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Gavin Evans
Results here and there have to go our way, yes, but it’s all pointless without two wins from the last two games and all we can do is concentrate on ourselves. Judgement Day is certainly a big event with over 65,000 tickets sold at present, the perfect time to test how far we’ve come under Wilson this season. Whatever happens though, just to be in this position is pretty amazing. Come on Cardiff!!
Cardiff form: WWLLWLWWWW
Ospreys form: WLDWWLLLWW
Cardiff top try scorer: Tom James (11)
Ospreys top scorer: Eli Walker (7)
Cardiff top points scorer: Rhys Patchell (230)
Ospreys top points scorer: Sam Davies (164)
Nigel Owens (WRU) – Yes that’s right, showtime Nige is in charge for the big game on Saturday and I’m sure he’s got plenty of one-liners ready for us. Hopefully one thing we won’t be hearing is his apology again after robbing Racing 92 of a try in the Champions Cup semi-finals last weekend. Owens isn’t exactly a pretty sight for Cardiff fans though as we’ve lost the last five games he’s taken charge of, including this season’s reverse fixture and this exact match at last Judgement Day. Overall it’s a record of 15 wins and 19 losses with Nige in charge of Cardiff, let’s hope that can be improved on Saturday.