The Heineken Champions Cup returns to Cardiff Arms Park for the first time since January 2014 on Sunday as Glasgow Warriors arrive for the second game in this year’s pool stages.
After last week’s 21-30 win away at Lyon John Mulvihill’s men are looking good at the top of pool three alongside Saracens, who overcame Sunday’s opponents 3-13 at Scotstoun in a tense and controversial affair.
It means that Cardiff Blues will be a very good position after the first two rounds of action with a win at the Arms Park, and the good news is that the omens are in our favour.
In fact, our last home victory in the top tier competition came against Glasgow back in December 2013 when we faced the Scottish side in the pool stages double header. A close came away was won 7-9 thanks in part to a monster Rhys Patchell penalty, while the home game was a more entertaining 29-20 scoreline with Patchell and Alex Cuthbert crossing for tries.
Before that we have only met once in European competition, back in 2001/02 when Cardiff won out over Glasgow at the Arms Park thanks to an inspired Iestyn Harris performance. Between those games, and a victory over Edinburgh in 2011/12, it means no Scottish side has won in the Welsh capital in European competition.
However, our league form against Glasgow has been atrocious stretching back to 2011, with just a single win coming from the last 14 games, when we won 23-19 at the Arms Park in September 2016.
In that time the Warriors have evolved from a largely mid-table team to become a consistent Pro14 title contender, finishing runner-up in 2013/14 before lifting the trophy in 2014/15 under the guidance of now Scotland coach Gregor Townsend.
These days it’s former New Zealand U20 and Chiefs coach Dave Rennie in charge, who has led Glasgow to five wins from six games to start this league season as they sit top of Conference A by a comfortable seven-point margin.
After last week’s defeat to Saracens though, Rennie has made two changes to his starting XV, drafting in Sam Johnson at inside centre in place of the injured Alex Dunbar, and preferring British and Irish Lion Tommy Seymour to Ruaridh Jackson at full-back.
On the bench Scottish U20 cap Scott Cummings will cover the second row, while Fijian international Niko Matawalu will look at add some pace when introduced in the wide channels.
Glasgow Warriors: Tommy Seymour, Lee Jones, Huw Jones, Sam Johnson, DTH van der Merwe, Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown, D’Arcy Rae, Rob Harley, Jonny Gray, Ryan Wilson (co-capt), Callum Gibbins (co-capt), Matt Fagerson
Replacements: George Turner, Alex Allan, Petrus du Plessis, Scott Cummings, Chris Fusaro, George Horne, Pete Horne, Niko Matawalu
Meanwhile for Cardiff Blues, John Mulvihill has been forced into two changes to the starting XV which beat Lyon last week, while chooses to make two more for tactical reasons.
Josh Navidi (knee) and Owen Lane (hamstring) have been ruled out for the foreseeable future, and are replaced by Nick Williams and Aled Summerhill in the lineup for this Sunday, as Matthew Morgan returns to the bench.
Then George Earle returns from injury and is selected in the second row, while Rey Lee-Lo is preferred to Garyn Smith who is amongst the replacements. Samu Manoa could make his home debut off the bench if he is brought on.
Cardiff Blues: Gareth Anscombe, Aled Summerhill, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Jason Harries, Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Rhys Gill, Kristian Dacey, Dillon Lewis, George Earle, Josh Turnbull, Olly Robinson, Ellis Jenkins, Nick Williams
Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Brad Thyer, Scott Andrews, Rory Thornton, Samu Mamoa, Lloyd Williams, Garyn Smith, Matthew Morgan
After last week’s tactical masterstroke from Mulvihill it’s a much more standard Cardiff Blues looking team, with a mix of weight, mobility and breakdown threat up front and plenty of running threats in the backs.
The similarities between both sides are striking, in terms of team selection and style of play, while Scotstoun having an artificial playing surface mean Glasgow don’t have the disadvantage some teams do at the Arms Park.
A major difference is how both teams enter the contest though. Cardiff Blues have four wins in a row and a pool stage win under our belts after a win on the road at Lyon.
Glasgow, on the other hand, haven’t obviously overcome that shock defeat to Kings a few weeks ago and will be bitterly disappointed by last week’s loss to Saracens. If they lose again on Sunday they know they are on the back foot in the competition.
An intriguing battle awaits between two very evenly matched sides. It will come down to the finest of margins which may well be us in the stands, so get to CAP and support the boys. Come on Cardiff!
Cardiff Blues form: LWWWW
Glasgow Warriors: WLWWL
Cardiff Blues top try scorers: Tomos Williams, Rey Lee-Lo (3)
Glasgow Warriors top try scorers: Tommy Seymour, Lee Jones, Ali Price (2)
Cardiff Blues top points scorer: Gareth Anscombe (77)
Glasgow Warriors top points scorer: Adam Hastings (48)
Luke Pearce (ENG) – Regarded as one of the best young referees around, this will be Pearce’s 19th Heineken Cup game but his first visit to the Arms Park and the first time he takes charge of a Cardiff Blues game at all.