The season has arrived!! Cardiff’s Pro12 campaign kicks off this weekend with Edinburgh visiting in a battle of the capital cities. It’s been a long four months since the season finished at Murrayfield with a win and plenty of change has occurred with a number of players leaving, a few new arrivals and more than enough fitness training.
Pre-season has overall been a successful one. Despite a dreadful opening first half against Newport, we have come back strongly to put in 120 minutes of decent rugby to win the second half at Rodney Parade 21-7, before beating Bristol 25-24 at the Arms Park. With a minimal injury list and plenty of competition for places, it is an exciting time.
Following on from the form from the end of last season there is no doubt that expectations are high from this group. Six wins in the last eight games is play-off chasing quality and if we can put a majority of the season together like that there is no reason that at least Champions Cup rugby can be achieved, and who knows what else more.
After leapfrogging Edinburgh with that win on the last day of last season they too have recruited well over the summer. Scotland fly-half Duncan Weir has joined from Glasgow, winger Rory Scholes from Ulster and Junior Rasolea adds an extra dimension from Super Rugby’s Western Force in midfield.
All three start alongside the injury returners Grant Gilchrist and Fraser McKenzie at lock and a Scottish international front row of WP Nel, Ross Ford and Rory Sutherland. They will hope to create a solid platform up front to allow that new look backline to play, that also includes another new signing from Glasgow in Glenn Bryce.
Opposition View: Edinburgh – A new feature where an opposing fan answers questions: https://cardiffbluesblog.com/2016/08/31/opposition-view-edinburgh/
Cardiff’s pack meanwhile looks a touch more lightweight as Danny Wilson, along with new attack coach Matt Sherratt, look to continue the open attacking game that saw us score the second most points in the Pro12 last season. Macauley Cook is preferred to James Down at lock after a strong pre-season, while Rhys Gill keeps his place at loosehead with Gethin Jenkins on the bench.
Steve Shingler is preferred to a Gareth Anscombe who hasn’t taken part in pre-season, while Dan Fish retains the full-back slot leaving Matthew Morgan to complete very strong looking bench containing five Welsh and an American international. The centre pairing of Rey Lee-Lo and Cory Allen get another chance to improve their partnership, with Tom James and Blaine Scully hoping to take advantage of that from the wings.
Cardiff team vs Edinburgh: 15 -Dan Fish; 14 – Blaine Scully, 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 – Macauley Cook, 6 – Josh Navidi, 7 – Ellis Jenkins (capt), 8 – Nick Williams.
Replacements: 16 – Kristian Dacey, 17 – Gethin Jenkins, 18 – Scott Andrews, 19 – James Down, 20 – Cam Dolan, 21 – Lewis Jones, 22 – Gareth Anscombe, 23 – Matthew Morgan.
This game will largely come down to who can dictate their style of play best during the 80 minutes. If Cardiff can keep the game fast and expansive we will stand a good chance of outscoring Edinburgh. Tomos Williams and Steve Shingler at half-back will be crucial to this, as will cutting down the unforced handling errors that plagued us throughout pre-season.
However, if we are dragged into a forwards battle we will struggle and the experience of Fa’ao Filise and Rhys Gill will have to be called upon in abundance, as will the strength of Nick Williams. In defence we need to get up as a line into the faces of the new Edinburgh backs early to try and disrupt their rhythm, and as always all we can ask is 100% commitment from every player in that respect.
If we play with the confidence we should take from last season’s ending form and this pre-season then we can go out and dominate. The push for the play-offs starts now why not aim high? Come on Cardiff!!
Cardiff record v Edinburgh: W 19 L 12
Last game: Edinburgh 17-21 Cardiff – Saturday 7th May 2016
No top try or points scorers yet
John Lacey (IRFU) – Refereed that win at Murrayfield on the last day of last season, and also the home win against Ulster in February, so good omens on that part! Prone to the odd bizarre decision but getting better as he gets older.
Cardiff v Edinburgh
Saturday 3rd September 2016, 19:35
Cardiff Arms Park
Tickets available here