The key battles: Cardiff Blues v Glasgow Warriors

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This Sunday sees Guinness Pro14 rivals Glasgow Warriors travel to Cardiff Arms Park for the second round of Heineken Champions Cup pool games, and Cardiff Blues first home game in the top tier tournament since January 2014.

Many of the opposition will be well known to us, as both Glasgow players and Scottish internationals, but there are still some intriguing match-ups across the park in what is set to be a very closely contested encounter.

I’ve had a look at some key areas where the game may be won or lost on Sunday.

Josh Turnbull v Jonny Gray

When Cardiff Blues are in trouble there is one man they turn to, and that man is Josh Turnbull. Arguably now a second row who can cover in the back row, rather than the other way round, he is key in defence posting big tackle numbers, as well as the lineout caller and a secondary carrying option aside Nick Williams.

However, he will need to have a big game on Sunday up against Jonny Gray, who probably should have been a British and Irish Lion in 2017.

The 24-year-old already has 43 Scotland caps to his name, and gets through a huge amount of work during a game as he mixes the modern lock trait of mobility with good old fashioned power it takes to pack down in the second row.

Both men have very similar skillsets, and whoever can impose themselves both in open play and at the set piece will have a major impact on how the game pans out.

Josh Turnbull Glasgow
Josh Turnbull has a battle on his hands against Jonny Gray

Ellis Jenkins v Callum Gibbins

This is the battle of the day, with the captain and talisman of each team going up against each other to try and establish superiority at the breakdown.

Now in his second season in Scotland, Gibbins arrived after spending eight years playing New Zealand Provincial rugby with Manawatu, and two years with the Hurricanes in Super Rugby.

An archetypal Kiwi flanker who battles for everything on the floor, carries hard and tackles hard, he has made a big impression at Scotstoun, where he has been made co-captain, and on the Pro14 in general as he was named in the league’s 2017/18 Dream Team.

Of course we all know the qualities of Ellis Jenkins though, who will no doubt relish the chance to go up against Gibbins, along with his flanker partner Olly Robinson. He has come through big test after big test, and ahead of the Autumn Internationals will be keen to put a marker down for Warren Gatland to see.

If Ellis and Olly can repeat on Sunday what they did to Lyon last week it puts Cardiff Blues at an advantage straight away.

Callum Gibbins Glasgow
Callum Gibbins will lead Glasgow on Sunday

Tomos Williams v Ali Price

Gareth Anscombe took a lot of the headlines last week as we won in France, but it was scrum-half Tomos Williams who arguably should have been man-of-the-match with an all-action performance that saw him carry six times for 71 metres, making five line breaks, grab a try and an assist, AND make 15 tackles.

A Wales call-up followed on the back of that, and on Sunday he will line-up opposite a man in Ali Price who he could face in two weeks when Wales face Scotland in the first Autumn International.

25-year-old Price is recognised now as the first choice Scottish scrum-half ahead of Greig Laidlaw, adding a running danger to his speed of pass that allows both Glasgow and Scotland to play the high-tempo attack game they both thrive off.

It will be Price who will try to give young fly-half Adam Hastings, who has earned rave reviews in the Pro14 so far this season, an easy ride after their team only scored three points in last weekend’s loss to Saracens.

Tomos Williams Munster
Tomos Williams was in fine form last weekend

Rey Lee-Lo v Huw Jones

After an effective appearance off the substitute bench last week in Lyon, Rey Lee-Lo is reinstated in the starting XV on Sunday and goes straight up against Huw Jones, who is fast making a name for himself as one of the best outside centres in Europe.

Since arriving from South Africa he has been a mainstay in the Glasgow and Scotland teams, with his strike running and defensive reading a real asset to both teams.

His ability to beat the first man is a main attribute, but with Lee-Lo possessing the same trait, it will be a tough battle all afternoon to see which centre can give his side some forward momentum by getting over the gain line and possibly making a line break.

Rey Lee-Lo Cheetahs 2
Rey Lee-Lo is back in the starting XV this weekend

It will likely be the finest of margins that decides Sunday’s game with both teams evenly matched and looking to play a similar brand of rugby on a plastic surface that is familiar to both teams.

Individual match-ups will go a long way to deciding the outcome. Hopefully Cardiff Blues players can take confidence from last week’s win and back themselves to make it two from two in Europe. Come on Cardiff!


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