Cardiff make their first Irish trip of the season on Friday night as they take on Munster at Musgrave Park, Cork. After four losses in the Emerald Isle last season, and only one win in the last eight at Munster, there’s a chance to put to bed a somewhat bogey game.
Following last week’s comprehensive bonus point win over Edinburgh to kick off the season you could forgive the team for being almost over-confident, however all the sound bites from Danny Wilson and the players in this week’s match build up have been squarely focused on how hard they will have to work over in Ireland. A sure sign that feet are being kept well and truly on the ground.
Munster themselves claimed a hard-fought win on Pro12 week one away at Llanelli, despite having just 37% possession and battling some atrocious weather conditions in the process. Patience may well be the key as Llanelli went through countless phases but the wall of Munster men could not be broken down, meaning tries from Ronan O’Mahony and James Cronin claimed a 13-23 win in West Wales.
The home side have been forced into two changes from the side that started in that victory with Simon Zebo and Tyler Bleyendaal both picking up knocks, they are replaced by Andrew Conway and Ian Keatley. Ireland international CJ Stander returns to the Munster squad and takes a place on the bench.
Munster: Andrew Conway; Darren Sweetnam, Dan Goggin, Rory Scannell, Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Dave Foley, Billy Holland – capt.; Dave O’Callaghan, Tommy O’Donnell, Jack O’Donoghue.
Replacements: Duncan Casey, Dave Kilcoyne, Brian Scott, Donnacha Ryan, CJ Stander, Tomás O’Leary, Cian Bohane, Stephen Fitzgerald.
Meanwhile in the Cardiff camp there are four changes to the starting XV that defeated Edinburgh last week. Kirby Myhill’s injury sees him replaced by Kris Dacey in the enforced change, while Gethin Jenkins is preferred to Rhys Gill at loosehead, Gareth Anscombe starts at 10 over Steve Shingler and Alex Cuthbert returns from injury in place of Blaine Scully.
On the bench there are a trio of returning Wales internationals with Josh Turnbull, Sam Warburton and Lloyd Williams fit to make their first Pro12 outings of the season, and Matthew Rees steps up to cover hooker.
Cardiff Blues: D Fish, A Cuthbert, C Allen, R Lee-Lo, T James, G Anscombe, T Williams; G Jenkins (capt), K Dacey, T Filise, G Earle, M Cook, J Navidi, E Jenkins, N Williams.
Replacements: M Rees, R Gill, S Andrews, J Turnbull, S Warburton, L Williams, S Shingler, M Morgan
Certainly a strong team selected from Danny Wilson as he rewards those, such as Tomos Williams, who were excellent last week by retaining them in the starting line-up, while demonstrating the level of strength in depth the squad is developing by naming a bench containing 190 international caps between them.
With the forecast not looking great for Friday night in Cork it will increase the level of concentration and quality required from the players, but as always all we can ask for is 100% commitment to the jersey and I’m sure the result will come. Whisper it quietly, but I’m quite confident. Come on Cardiff!!
Cardiff record vs Munster: W 10 L 18
Cardiff form: W
Munster form: W
Cardiff top try scorers: Steve Shingler, Nick Williams, Tomos Williams, Penalty (1)
Munster top try scorers: Ronan O’Mahony, James Cronin (1)
Cardiff top point scorer: Steve Shingler (15)
Munster top point scorer: Tyler Bleyendaal (7)
Ian Davies (WRU) – Well neutral match officials lasted long! There’s not even the neutral touch judge we were promised by the Pro12, but at least the TMO is from Scotland, right? Davies refereed Connacht v Glasgow with nothing controversial last week, and is largely quite a sensible referee, although the ‘homer’ tag does follow him around somewhat.