It’s back to the Arms Park on Saturday as Cardiff Blues welcome Glasgow Warriors for the third Guinness Pro14 encounter of the season.
It seems a long two weeks ago that the opening day of the Pro14 saw all pre-season hope evaporate thanks to a 10-20 defeat to Edinburgh, a desperately lacklustre performance in terms of commitment, physicality and skill level that rightly drew criticism from all quarters, not least the players and coaches themselves.
Last Friday’s defeat to Leinster was a definitive step forward though, even if a disappointing final 12 minutes saw the scoreline take a turn for the worse.
For 65 minutes the Cardiff Blues defensive blitz worked to stun Leinster on their own patch, with the players physically stepping up to the plate and rightly feeling that the 37-9 full-time result wasn’t quite a fair reflection of the game.
A lack of cutting edge will be the major concern going forward, with the 19 points scored across the opening two games being the least since league rugby came into existence in 1999. However, there is enough talent amongst the backs to put this down to a blip more than anything at this point, and there’s no time like a home game to put that right.
Glasgow Warriors will be formidable opponents though, having won both of their two Pro14 matches so far after coming into the season as one of the favourites to make the end-of-season play-offs.
With highly-rated new coach Dave Rennie arriving after a successful era at Super Rugby’s Chiefs, they will be hoping to pick up where now Scotland boss Gregor Townsend left off, playing a fast and open attacking game that has seen them competitive in both the league and Europe.
Rennie is able to recall British and Irish Lion Tommy Seymour on the wing for this weekend’s visit, as well as Matt Fagerson, Nick Grigg and Henry Pyrgos, as Glasgow make four changes from the team that beat Ospreys at Scotstoun last week.
Glasgow Warriors: Ruaridh Jackson, Tommy Seymour, Nick Grigg, Alex Dunbar, Lee Jones, Finn Russell, Henry Pyrgos (c); Jamie Bhatti, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Tim Swinson, Scott Cummings, Matt Fagerson, Callum Gibbins, Adam Ashe
Replacements: Pat MacArthur, Alex Allan, D’arcy Rae, Brian Alainu’uese, Chris Fusaro, George Horne, Peter Horne, Niko Matawalu
Danny Wilson also makes changes to his side, welcoming back Nick Williams to number eight and Willis Halaholo to the centres, as Macauley Cook and Garyn Smith make way, while there are timely returns for second row George Earle and loosehead Brad Thyer, who will feature off the bench.
It is largely the same team as last week though, as Wilson is somewhat restricted in team selection by an injury list including first teamers Gethin Jenkins, Kris Dacey, Fa’ao Filise, Ellis Jenkins, Sam Warburton, Gareth Anscombe and Blaine Scully.
Cardiff Blues: Rhun Williams, Alex Cuthbert, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Tom James, Steve Shingler, Lloyd Williams; Rhys Gill; Matthew Rees (c), Keiron Assiratti, Seb Davies, Damian Welch, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi, Nick Williams
Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Brad Thyer, Dillon Lewis, George Earle, Macauley Cook, Tomos Williams, Jarrod Evans, Matthew Morgan
Cardiff will be first and foremost be looking to carry on making progress after last weekend’s hugely improved performance, and the players have spoken about owing the fans a performance. In turn, we must show them they have our backing and continue to support the boys in our loud and proud way.
If things click as we know they can when this Cardiff Blues team are on form, then there’s no reason why we can’t match last year’s 23-19 victory over Glasgow at the Arms Park. The circumstances may have changed, but the talent is still there.
With Cardiff RFC also playing at 13:00 on CAP against Cross Keys it’s set up for a perfect double header. Here’s hoping for a great day of Cardiff Rugby, come on Cardiff!!
Cardiff Blues record v Glasgow: W 13 L 17
Cardiff Blues form: LL
Glasgow Warriors form: WW
Cardiff top try scorer: Josh Navidi (1)
Glasgow top try scorer: Alex Dunbar (2)
Cardiff top points scorer: Steve Shingler (9)
Glasgow top points scorer: Finn Russell (11)
Frank Murphy (Ire) – Former Munster, Connacht and Leicester scrum-half, as well as Ireland A cap, in his first full season as a Pro14 referee. Second visit to the Arms Park after officiating our win over Zebre at the end of last year.