The second, and last, game of Cardiff’s pre-season campaign takes place at the Arms Park on Saturday when Danny Wilson’s men welcome his former side of Bristol over the Severn Bridge. After last week’s disappointing loss away to Newport the players will certainly look to finish pre-season on a high.
To ensure that is the case there’ll need to be a number of changes to the playing style. Firstly, the team will have to shake the habit of last season and really start the game well. We cannot afford to be chasing matches and relying on second half comebacks as we did last week at Newport if we expect to be challenging for the Pro12 play-offs.
Competing at the breakdown will have to improve after just one turnover in the ruck last week, while defensive line speed and width must be better. At the set piece the defensive maul still looks extremely fragile, while consistency at the lineout off our own ball is needed.
Finally in attack it took until Steve Shingler’s impact around 10 minutes after at half-time to really inject any attacking flair. That was our real positive aspect from last season but it was sadly lacking in the pre-season opener. Of course there’s some rust to shake off and hopefully the quick hands and fast movement of 2015/16 return sooner rather than later.
Of course while our performance will need to increase the quality of opponent will do the same as Bristol arrive in Wales ahead of their first Premiership campaign since 2008/09. The West Country side will be confident after winning the Championship play-offs at the fifth time of asking and have recruited well over the summer with new signings Will Hurrell, Soane Tonga’uiha, Jordan Crane and Jon Fisher set to feature at CAP.
They have international experience in Tom Varndell, Pat Lam and Cardiff old boy Gavin Henson, while Rhodri and Jordan Williams are well known in the Welsh club game. It is set to be a fast, attacking game with both sides known for their high scoring last season and hopefully we get a repeat of last year’s eight try pre-season Classic, with Cardiff winning 26-31 at Ashton Gate.
Danny Wilson meanwhile has welcomed plenty of international experience back of his own with Cam Dolan, Ellis Jenkins, Rey Lee-Lo, Cory Allen, Alex Cuthbert and Tom James all starting alongside new boy Matthew Morgan facing his old side. Debuts are also in store for Rhys Gill, Kirby Myhill, George Earle and Nick Williams. Steve Shingler and Tomos Williams start at half-back while Fa’ao Filise is in at tight head with only McAuley Cook retaining his place in the starting XV.
On the bench there could be first outings of the season for Kris Dacey, Dillon Lewis and Tavis Knoyle as Wilson tries to give each squad member some game time ahead of the Pro12 opener against Edinburgh in two weeks. Gethin Jenkins, Josh Turnbull and Lloyd Williams miss out due to slight injuries picked with Wales, while Sam Warburton and Gareth Anscombe are not match fit having only had two weeks training.
Cardiff team vs Bristol: 15 Matthew Morgan; 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Rey Lee Lo, 11 Tom James; 10 Steve Shingler, 9 Tomos Williams; 1 Rhys Gill, 2 Kirby Myhill, 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 4 George Earle, 5 Cam Dolan, 6 Macauley Cook, 7 Ellis Jenkins (capt), 8 Nick Williams.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Garyn Smith, 24 Harri Millard, 25 Aled Summershill, 26 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 27 James Sheekey, 28 Dan Fish, 29 Blaine Scully.
This will be the first of three Severnside derbies this season with both sides drawn in the same Challenge Cup pool, and Cardiff hold the advantage overall after two victories in the 2007/08 Heineken Cup. 34-18 and 0-17 scorelines thanks to tries from Maama Molitika, Martyn Williams, Gareth Thomas and Jamie Robinson, as well as Ben Blair’s boot, saw us do the double.
A win would be a psychological boost ahead of the season and the Challenge Cup encounters with Bristol but really I’d be happy with an improved performance after last week’s loss. A chance to put a marker down with some exciting attacking rugby on our plastic pitch and to see the new signings blend into the team. Come on Cardiff!!
Cardiff v Bristol
Saturday 20th August
Cardiff Arms Park
Kick-off – 15:00
Tickets available here
Double header with Cardiff RFC v Taunton – 12:00